How to


As a marketer and web designer specializing in social media marketing, I have one rule that is never broken. No personal pictures of children. I would rather lose a client because I know that the web is a scary place filled with anonymity and people with no value for children. While parents protect their children from those hiding in the shadows of secrecy in real life, many parents unwittingly expose their children to thousands of sexual predators and molesters who are simply a click away.

If there is one message that I would love to give every parent who engages in social media or marketing for their business it would be: the web is not your friend!

Here are six NEVER DO things for social media and websites to protect your children:

1.  Never use pictures of your children as your profile picture. So many parents use pictures of their children instead of themselves as profile or avatar images. While I appreciate the need for parents to retain obscurity, think about the exposure of your children and their image to mass populations of people.

2.  Never put pictures of your children on your website or blog. Perhaps the most accessible way to gain pictures, a website or blog surrenders pictures with just a right click and SAVE AS. Posing a double threat, many website and blogs are directly traceable to a location by phone number or direct address.  Might as well place a google map on your child with a large YOU ARE HERE arrow.

3.  Never share pictures over social media.  Having seen people post a link to vacation pictures or family fun on Twitter or Facebook, the warning light bulb burns white hot upon the realization that thousands of unknown people exist in each account. Even in the strictest of social media sites that require you to validate your “friends,” people can sneak in to your connections. Further, when connections comment on your photos, your photos show up in the highlights of their connections! In certain social media, your pictures can be shared and re-tweeted to a whole new group of people without your knowledge.

4.  Never send pictures over email. If you send pictures of your children to company email addresses, then they go through a server administrated by people. As email can easily be viewed, saved, downloaded, and forwarded, grabbing these pictures of your children is not difficult. Most servers automatically scan downloads and attachments for viruses and generate reports to administrators.

5.  Never forget that someone does not have to touch your child to exploit them. When placing the pictures of your children in any online electronic format, never forget that you are exposing them to exploitation by one simple right click. In the thousands of people on the internet and in social media profiles, consider the chances that one of them is either a pedophile or sexual predator. The chances are very good!

6.  Never let innocence block your view of the truth. So many parents see their children with innocence rather than the potential for exploitation. Innocent pictures of children in the bath tub or playing in the backyard sprinkler are graphic to a sick mind. Although it might be painful to think in that manner, there are many consequences more painful than protecting your child by seeing the truth.

People often protect their financial information more stringently than their children because they feel safe in tucking their children into bed at night.

Not quite…in reality, it takes less than 10 seconds to right click on a picture and upload it to a new webpage. In those 10 seconds, a charming picture of a 7 year old girl in her new bathing suit splashing around in a pool can hit a child pornography website and be up for sale to thousands of pedophiles for a few dollars.

Sickening? Yes.

Are you ready for worse? Social media pages and websites often have exact locations connected to the parents’ profile. Even more directly, many social media profiles have websites that list as a location and phone number on the website or in a domain search. In less time than it takes to post that innocent picture to share with family and friends, a child molester can find the exact address of your child. When posting pictures of children, many parents post their names and ages with the picture.

Is there anything more persuasive for a child than a person who knows their parents name as well as their own? It is quite an advantage for sexual predator.

After watching a recent episode of Raising the Bar, it was very clear that my own experiences with parents reflects the comfortable naiveté of reality in how often people forget that the web is not their friend because we have grown up with the web as a part of our lives. I suggest this episode to every single person responsible for the well-being of children who uses the social media or the web as part of their connection with family, marketing for a business, or expansion of a social network.

Raising the Bar http://www.tnt.tv/dramavision/?oid=49111&eref=sharethisUrl.  

Remember: The web is not your friend!

Although there is a large push to jump on the social media marketing bandwagon, most companies and business owners strike out into the great unknown of the online frontier without a social media marketing branding plan.  It might seem unnecessary to most business owners; however, the creation of an online branding strategy is one of the most vital steps to social media marketing success.  Just as each bubble of social media contact floats out into the webosphere toward an intended audience, a social media brand must be consistent for potential customers and business partners to see a strong message.

There are as many different online forums and networking sites in the online marketing arena as there are bees in a hive.  For the purpose of clarity, consider Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Biznik as prime examples.  In fact, these five steps to creating a consistent brand in social media marketing will apply the same way to every online promotional opportunity from electronic article publication to blogging:

1. Decide on a Niche Market.  No matter what audience you are seeking to address, identifying your niche audience is even more vital in social media marketing than in traditional marketing because there are millions more people to reach.  Many companies believe that drawing thousands of followers on Twitter or dozens of connections on LinkedIn equals high ROI (return on investment).  If 999 of the 1000 people who follow you on Twitter are women without children and you sell mommy products, then your conversion is actually VERY low.   Finding your niche audience will give you good coverage for your brand and lead to better conversions.

2. Consider a Face.  Much of social media marketing is about finding the right way to promote.  Whether you decide to use your company logo or your picture, remember that the icon or avatar will represent the “face” of your online efforts.  If it is important to have human recognition (for services, human recognition is imperative!), then consider finding a person that looks non-generic in race, economic type, and profession without being remote or sterile.

3. Persona Grata.  The welcome person should be prepared to tweet, post, and connect with a consistent tone and voice to distribute all company correspondences of online marketing.  By allowing one person to interact on each posting board and forum, the chances are better that the message and branding will stay the same in all social media venues.

4. Slogan-ate.  In virtually every social media forum, there is the opportunity to write a short blub about the company or person.  This is incredibly useful space that most people waste.  This is the place where people look when they are deciding if they want to connect with you and get to know you.  Using this space as your online business card or elevator speech is the best approach for developing interaction between social media platforms.

5. Promote and Measure.  By setting up separate promotions for each social media forum, you are able to kill two marketing birds with one stone!  You can do some quick A / B testing of several promotions to see which promotion out performs the other.  Plus, you can quickly measure results by the number of people who take you up on the offer.  Once you have decided which promotion has achieved more results, you should create slight variation of the same promotion to strength your brand recognition for each social media involvement and measure return on investment.
 
Many of the reasons that solopreneurs and companies market in an online atmosphere include the opportunity to gain exposure for their brand and the dissemination of branded marketing messages to a larger audience.  In both cases, increasing brand recognition and promoting a strong marketing message require a consistent brand for the audience to connect the dots into a series of marketing touches that increase sales potential.  By following the five steps, consistent branding in social media marketing will match the branding on the rest of your promotional materials.

Now, I know that the next few minutes of discussion will not resemble anything politically correct (not unusual right?) or mentally sound in the rational way that should be on topic, but I am noticing a growing trend that alarms me.  In many ways, I walk completely outside of society and their uptight rules.  Yes, hippy rebellion as it may sound…let people live and think without hurting each other.  Not so crazy, after all, I think that it could be argued that the Bible says something like that in several places. However, not to get too far off point, I am very obsessive about paying bills on time.  I own a business and nothing makes me angrier than to have to remind someone to pay their invoice.  So, in turn, I don’t want people having to remind me to pay my bills.  Fair is fair right?

In return, I do expect a certain amount of customer service.  Let’s be completely honest, I represent that ideal that customer service is essential and I seem to be the only one.  I have noticed a sliding trend of customer service in the past few months that makes me want to reach out to companies and say, “You know, I will pay more for good service.  Really!”  They really need the proverbial V8 slap to the back of the head.

Here are some of my mental money meanderings over the past month:

  • Language Barriers:  PLEASE don’t make me press one again to speak to someone in English.  If you can detect my name and address using caller ID, cant we please set my language preferences?  I would much rather tell you my name than have to listen to that damn 30 second introduction for the next 50 years of my life.
  • Language Barriers, part 2:  After I press one to speak to someone in English, transferring me to someone with an accent that is so thick I can not understand them DOES NOT count as speaking to someone in English.  It is very frustrating to continually say, “I am sorry, I can’t understand you.  Did you just ask me what I had for dinner last week?”  *grin*  Ok, so maybe it is not THAT bad, but you get the point!
  • Don’t call me:  What is up with companies that do not have a telephone number on their website or put it in an obscure place where you have to search all over the world wide webiverse?  (My word “webiverse”—I love it because it describes all of us who have a universe on the web!).  Enough already…give me a break and let me call you with my question.  We will all be happier when I finally find it.
  • At the beep:   Even better, large companies that keep bankers hours on staffing their phone systems.  I swear, I called AT&T the other day (switched to Vonage because it will save me about $150 a month—I will let all know how that goes) to pay my last bill.  I received an automated voice that said they only staff the phones during 8-6, M-F.  Logically, that is when all phone issues occur right?  The phone company does not have people staffing the phone.  Yes…in my mind…that is right up there with a Catholics priests not being married but giving marriage advice!  Enuf said.
  • Charges to Pay:  Now, to make a payment online (which I used to love because it was fast and convenient!), you have to pay 3 days ahead of time.  Good enough, when I understand that the rules have changed, I can play the game.  But, I called to make a phone payment today to keep from being late and was told that there would be $15.95 phone payment charge.  Huh?  I could not believe.  Fast and easy is apparently gone the way of cost effective.  Never mind the fact that I don’t consider a 3 day lead way an acceptable time frame for an electronic payment, but now it costs extra if I want to pay them on time.
  • Check Please:  I find it incredibly irritating when I make an electronic payment that requires me to void a check.  I don’t consider it unreasonable.  Electronic payment is supposed to keep me from needing the check.  Do they know how much checks cost these days?  And, the security risk of tearing it up (we shred—but anyways)….throwing it away is just a huge waste of my money.
  • ATMs hold ups:  When my ATM is down (and the next ATM is about 25 miles away), I have to use another bank.  For this, I get charged an incredible fee, as much as 25% of the ATM transaction between both banks, because their equipment did not work.  Interesting version of customer service.  We charge you for our failure.  Its good to be the bank!
  • Resellers:  After noticing an amazing charge on my cell bill this month (I just got a new Blackberry), I called the company to discuss it.  I was told by their customer service that the store that I bought the product in only housed retailers.  They were sales people on commission.  If I wanted services turned off or on, then I needed to call the customer service branch of the company because the sales people were only there to make sales.  Now, I am not naïve by a long shot.  But, it seems to me that if you put a large sign on the building, all of the guys in the place have your logo on them, and they tot business cards with your name, then you carry some liability for what they say.  I was advised to go to the store and discuss it with the Manager.  Uh huh… right after he had just told me not to trust their representatives that were in there.  When did businesses STOP backing up what their employees say?  More over, when is it ok to be ok with saying….”You should never trust one of our representatives.”  Guess I those guys selling cell phones on street corner with a side of crack really do have the right idea…they are training to work for my cell phone company!
  • Special Honors Note:  Here is a little tidbit that I found out by calling the bank after putting a meal on my debit card and noticing it exceeded the ticket amount by a large margin (so much I noticed it!).  The bank informed me that merchants are allowed to charge up to 30% of your sale OVER the amount of the sale (yes…in addition to your sales price) and hold it until your sale clears the bank.  The ticket is electronically submitted to the bank and the bank refunds the money back into your account. 

              

*At this point, I said….”what if the money is not recredited to my account or the ticket is not submitted as I signed it?  You have allowed them to take money from my account without my consent.”

**Answer:  “That does not happen.” 

Let me give you a little background.  In Tampa in January of this year, I took a few people to lunch.  The restaurant is a national chain that will remain nameless (but it does have a big pepper on the sign!) and I was charged three separate times for the same meal.  The bank had let all three transactions clear.  I caught it and reported it.  It happens and your bank is NOT there to protect you.  Protect yourself.

Ranting over…I have been meaning to go down this road for several weeks because it has been collecting in my brain.  I don’t feel like I am asking TOO MUCH….I mean, I pay my bills on time and I consider myself a logical human being.  I guess that might be the problem.  Logical human beings don’t get very far in the universe….so, I took it to my “webiverse.” 

Money, as the Bible says, is NOT the root of all evil.  The root of all evil is bad customer service and terrible business practices.  If you are guilty of any of these OR something that is driving your customer crazy, all the great marketing in the world will not help you! ~~Dee