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Fulfill Your Dream to Blog
in 11 Steps

Fulfill Your Dream to Blog in 11 Steps
By Chris Abraham



So “blogging” is on your to do list this year. Good for you. My goal is to guide you well past the first 28-days and into habituation. Starting blogging is not going to be easy for you. You’ll be all hot and ready at first but you’ll probably never make it — at least not without my help. More people give up on blogging — and writing in general — than give up on  going to the gym in order to lose weight and get fit.

Blog wasn’t built in a day.

Mark my words.

A majority of my revenue is generated from blogger outreach, namely long-tail and deep-dive outreach that extends all the way into the thousands of bloggers. As part of the client service work I do, I have engaged with many thousands of bloggers over the last decade.

Let’s see if I can help you get through the first push-off.

1) What is your agenda for starting a blog?

There is no right or wrong answer here. What do you want out of your new commitment (or re-commitment) to blogging? Are you blogging to get the job of your dreams? You can, you know. Are you blogging to ward off boredom as you raise someone from a Zygote? Do you have aspirations of getting free stuff in the mail that you’ll then review on your blog? Fair enough — completely possible, even probable if you can prove your mettle. Are you committed?

Agencies don’t sent out Hermès Kelly Bags or let you borrow S-Class sedans to just anyone. You’ll really need to commit to making it into the A-list of your topic or category of choice before you’ll start being treated like royalty. When it comes to even receiving cheap swag or tchotchkes, you’ll need to have blogged well and long enough to be a known entity with a passable reputation and Klout score.

Oftentimes, if your aspiration is to be a tech guy or fashionista, you’ll need to underwrite your own gadgets and gear yourself. At least until someone fancies you to be just the right person who has the reputation, voice, access, and reach that resonates with each unique promotion. Good news: once you’re on board, you’ll probably be a go to guy/gal for as long as you’re positive, responsive, and professional. It’s simple: commit to treating your blog much less than a journal or diary and more like a profession, a job.

That’s not to say you need to become square or reporterly. Objective is not what anyone wants. People want you, they need you. They should, down the road, know and enjoy your wit, your mind, your world, your experience, and even where you are in the world — with your family, kids, friends, city, state, personal passions, hobbies, and all of that. People want the whole package, and that package is you, Mr. or Ms. Blogger.

2) Only start a blog if you love writing and have something to say:

Here’s secret number one about blogging: blogs don’t write themselves. Secret number two: blogs, and the associated marketing, promoting, connecting, pitching, connecting, relating, commenting, and responding, and then blogging some more: short pieces, response pieces, shill pieces, longer pieces. Guess what: lots of writing. Don’t worry, passion-player: if you don’t like writing, maybe video blogging on YouTube is for you.

Ugly? Maybe SoundCloud or an audio podcast on Stitcher. Terrible, nasally, voice? Well, it’s OK. Nerdy, nasally, awful voices are the new trend when it comes to podcasting. There are virtually zero velvety dulcet tones going on anywhere in Podcast-land. Still ugly? Well, maybe ugly means you’re more authentic — go ahead and give YouTube a try. Start a YouTube Channel today. But don’t worry. You can become as much — or more — of a sensation on YouTube as you can on a blog. YouTube is how Justin Beiber was discovered, right? And, YouTube is the second most popular search engine right under Google Search.

And, if you’re really committed, try out all the platforms in order to build your personal brands: YouTube, Soundcloud, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg, Tumblr, as well as your blog. It’s as much about you, blogger, as it is about each particular, discrete, post you birth into the world-o-sphere.

3) Blogging is a lifetime commitment:

Like immuno-suppressant drugs after heart transplant surgery, once you start blogging you can never stop — or terrible things will happen. One will kill your body, the other will kill everything you’ve worked so hard to accomplish. To paraphrase the quote about Rome, your blog wasn’t built in a day, but it burned in one. What takes you months — years — to build can go away in weeks.

4) Nothing’s really going to happen for the first six months:

Once you consummate your marriage (with your blog), you need to realize that no matter what you do, unless you already have a well developed brand, a multinational company, or are between A to C-list celebrity, then you’re going to have to work like a banshee and maybe — just maybe — you’ll start getting some SEO and popularity traction by month six. More likely, however, you’ll have your ups and downs over the course of a year based mostly on the quality, popularity, trendiness, and luck. If you start seeing more consistent readership and deeper popularity as manifest my consistently increased social sharing (by people other than you and your best friends) then you’ll start seeing your metrics move more reliably.

Please remember, however, that blogging is primarily about connecting with your goals. If your goals are to attract the attention of an employer or a brand or agency, then metrics aren’t everything. However, if your goal is to make a living through advertising and affiliate marketing, then yes, you’ll surely need to care about traffic and numbers: the more the better. But don’t let raw numbers drive your concept of success or failure. Remember, all you need to do is attract the attention of employers, colleagues, reporters, agency reps, and brands.

5) Writing is only a quarter of what it takes to be a blogger:

Writing takes a lot of work. And you’ll need to do a lot of it. But the blogging is only a quarter of the time you’ll need to put in. In addition to that work, you’ll need to maintain your blog website, you’ll need to sort out site moderation, become somewhat of an expert in WordPress, Drupal, Xoomla, Movable Type, Typepad, Tumblr, Squarespace, Blogger, or whatever you choose (choose WordPress).

You need to jump in, feet first, into social media, including your own personal Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ profile. Quite possibly a Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ professional brand profile page are in order. Maybe Pinterest even. Quite a few bloggers also maintain newsletters, email lists, and email subscription lists.

Then, you’ll need to meet all the other people in your blogging space. You’ll need to keep track of social media mentions about your blog posts, you’ll need to monitor comments and respond in a timely manner. You’ll need to delete spam and moderate abusive comments.

I am sure I have just scratched the surface. Domain name registration, email monitoring (for that fateful email that’ll get you that Mercedes Benz S550 test drive or your very own Kelly Bag), and all sorts of other technical issues you’ve never thought of: downtime, a broken template, a corrupted database. You will have become an entrepreneur, publisher, reporter, media mogul, and technologist all in one fell swoop.

6) Your content is more important than your domain name or funny title:

Some of the most important bloggers are using using free or inexpensive blog hosting sites. The king of all blogs is Seth Godin and he uses TypePad as his blog hosting site, sethgodin.typepad.com. So, even though I tend to lead with clever domain names and sassy titles, you really don’t need them. Sometimes, if you’re really good at content and are reliable and professional, sites like WordPress.com, Blogger/Blogspot, and Tumblr will oftentimes be able to help promote you online. So, don’t spend most of your time fussing around with tech, domain names, web hosting — write, write, write; blog, blog, blog.

7) Hold off on the advertising and contextual ads for a little while:

Ads, advertising, contextual ads, Google AdWords and AdSense ads, and affiliate links demand huge amounts of traffic to be profitable in any way more profound than a little bit of beer money. And, cluttering up your blogs and websites prematurely — before you’re cooking with gas — can really turn of your nascent readership as well. Drive them away, distract them from your well written, completely thought out explorations in text, insight, and brilliance. Put aside the advertising until down the road. Woo them deep into your lair, spin them in your web first, and then you can monetize.

“The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.” — James Allen

8) Engage your community both on your blogs and on social media:

As I said above, you need to not only write, but you surely need to spend quite a lot of time becoming — and being — neighborly. Become a known entity. Maybe extend your blogging experience some over at The Huffington Post. Try guest blogging for your colleagues or friends (but don’t just use your friends to help promote your own site, bloggers hate that). And maybe it’s time to really start treating all of the places you tend to use for recreation into platforms for your business. Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter are powerful tools for branding — much more powerful and effective than RSS, circa 2014. However, that said, tools like Digg Reader and Feedly are still powerful and useful drivers for your readership.

9) Social media has become an essential part of the blogging life:

I can’t say this enough. You have been warned.

10) Make sure people can easily contact you:

In your insane and irrational attempt to stop each and every piece of spam, you very well may have made it too difficult for us agency and publicity types to easily get a hold of you, then we won’t. I need to know your name and an email address that you actually check. Personally, I won’t jump through the hoops of filling out web forms or Captchas, or links to LinkedIn, Facebook, some sort of gatekeeper, or via Twitter. I also use GroupHigh and they scrape blogs on a daily basis in order to discover blog name, blogger name, and email address. You obfuscate your contact info by replacing your textual email address with a GIF, PNG, or JPG graphic. Suck up a certain number of spam emails — and go through all of your spam in your spam box — and make yourself as available and as accessible as possible if you want to actually build a connection with the advertising, PR, promotional, publicity, and brand world.

11) Don’t lead with a price sheet or a rate card:

I know what you’ve learned from BlogHer and all the other of Podcamps, webinars, conferences, or books you may have read. You can’t go from zero to big bucks in one fell swoop. Surely, there are blogs, properties, and platforms that are interesting enough for people to want to pay you to post content, reviews, and press releases on your blog.

However, many of these people don’t really care about the quality of the post, the quality of your voice, your insights, wit, or creativity — all they care about is textual links for the benefits of SEO. If and when you get pitched by a PR agency, a brand, a company, or publicist and you really like and love the product, say yes, even if it’s for free.

It all depends on your goals, your intention, your end game. Are you interested in building your own brand or getting the job of your dreams? Do you want to build up a reputation in a new field? Do you want to have subject mastery, to be known professionally for something that has heretofore only been a hobby and something you’ve done in your spare time? If you do it for free, as a favor, and in service of building up your reputation, your expertise, and your experience, in service of a longer game goal, you’ll soon develop a reputation of someone who is generous, kind, passionate, responsive, and friendly — an ally, a brand ambassador, a friend-of-the-company. Rather than being an extortionist, a mercenary, a pirate (yeah, maybe that’s not fair, but remember, there is always someone else who is nicer and easier to work with).

Try to be the blogger who is positive, is helpful, and who says yes rather than the blogger who starts at no and then is willing to play hardball over dollars and cents. It really just depends on what you want in the end.

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Chris Abraham

Principal Consultant at Gerri Corp.
Chris Abraham is a leading expert in digital, including online reputation management (ORM), Internet privacy, social media marketing and digital PR with a focus on blogger outreach, blogger engagement and Internet crisis response.
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A Banking View on Windows XP and the End of Support: See It, Block It

A Banking View on Windows XP and the End of Support: See It, Block It
By Christopher Budd


We are a couple of days away from a proverbial red letter day: the end of security support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014.

For the past few months, we’ve been talking about this impending event. We’ve talked about what people can expect in terms of the number of vulnerabilities they may see when Microsoft stops issuing security patches. And we’ve tried to make very clear that this is a situation that can affect everyone, not just those running Windows XP.

 

 
When we talk about the dangers that people on Windows XP pose to others, there’s probably no single industry that faces a greater set of risks by users being on Windows XP than banking and finance. More than any other industry, banking and finance face significant risks of fraud and loss due to its customers’ making the unwise decision to stay on Windows XP. As an industry facing extraordinary, unprecedented risks around Windows XP, banking and finance should consider equally extraordinary, unprecedented steps to protect themselves by alerting customers who are on Windows XP of the risks and encouraging them to upgrade. In some cases, especially as time goes on, the banking and finance sector should consider taking steps to block customers still on Windows XP from their services entirely.

The reason that banking and finance are at so much at risk by its users being on Windows XP is that unpatched vulnerabilities will be found and attacked on Windows XP. And as we’ve shown in our 2013 Threat Roundup, online banking malware is a huge problem. From 2012 to 2013, detections of online banking malware more than doubled from 500,000 worldwide in 2012 to more than 1 million in 2013. And the United States and Brazil alone accounted for 50%, or 500,000 detections, of online banking malware. Skyrocketing online banking malware combined with a coming slew of never-to-be-patched vulnerabilities means that online banking on Windows XP is going to become incredibly dangerous soon. And while that is a risk to the users of those Windows XP systems, in aggregate and in the end, it’s those users’ banks and financial institutions that face the greatest risks.

From a technological point of view, when users go to websites, it’s a relatively simple matter to detect the browser and operating system that’s accessing the site. Using that information to create an alert to make people aware of the risks of being on Windows XP and what they should do about it is an easy way to help spread the word. And a step like this will reinforce actions that Microsoft themselves are taking to alert users through alert messages. The broader the net is spread to pass the word about these risks the better.

But warnings may not be enough. People tune warnings out and ignore them. We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that warnings alone will be sufficient. And as time goes on, this situation will become worse and worse. Banks and financial institutions should also start considering the drastic measure of actively blocking users on Windows XP from using their online services entirely.

This is clearly an extreme measure as it will cause lost business. But this step may be justified, especially if the risks of financial losses from Windows XP users exceed the risks of losses from losing those customers. It’s not desirable to turn customers away, but businesses do it all the time in service of their larger concerns. The coming situation with Windows XP and the risks those users pose to their banks and financial institutions is a good example of when these larger considerations pertain.

Of course, in addition to online alerts or blocks, further education campaigns make sense. Notifying customers of the risks and what they should do, through email and online campaigns, can further reinforce the message. Banks and financial institutions (and really anyone) should feel free to disseminate our flyer that outlines these risks.

Banking and finance aren’t the only sectors that are particularly at risk starting next week. But it is the sector that may face some of the greatest impact over time as its users continue to refuse to switch. We’re getting down to the wire and time is running out. Increasingly, those still on Windows XP represent those who most stubbornly refuse to take action. Increasingly, organizations who are themselves at risk by the non-actions of these recalcitrant users will have to themselves take actions that seek to spur those users into action. In short, we have to make it more painful for these users to do nothing than to take action. And so, a viable tactic in support of this goal around Windows XP is if you see it, block it.

Christopher Budd is a communications manager with Trend Micro. His focus is on communications around online security and privacy threats to help people understand in plain English the risks they face and what they can do about them. In addition, he focuses on managing crisis communications utilizing a framework and processes he helped put in place.

Making Social Media Secure

Making Social Media Secure
By Devin Redmond


As social media hacks continue to increase, the Internet buzz about how best to protect social accounts has also grown louder. As big brands like the Associated Press and others are hacked, loads of vendors and “experts” have started espousing processes and promoting technologies to secure social media accounts and prevent hacks. Yet there is no silver bullet: making your social media secure and protecting your brand requires a multitude of technologies and processes, some of which we’ll explore here.

 

 

Two-factor Authentication for Twitter

Last year, Twitter released two-factor authentication to increase user and account level security. Its two-factor technology requires the account password and a code sent to your phone.

Unfortunately, Twitter’s two-factor authentication isn’t scalable for accounts with more than one admin (i.e., any large brand) and doesn’t stop unauthorized tweets from applications. Additionally, if a user logs in with two-factor from a computer infected with malware, the hacker can pass tweets through the properly authenticated session.

So, although two-factor is a great way to prevent hackers from simply guessing your password, it’s not going to stop any of the more capable hackers, nor will it work on an active, brand owned account.

Physical Controls

To complement its two-factor authentication system, Twitter also issued a set of recommendations for social media marketers, including dedicating one computer just for Twitter publishing.

In reality, social media teams generally consist of multiple people across various departments and locations, so it’s not practical to only publish content from a single terminal, especially given the mobility of today’s employees and the need to interact with followers in real time – a key tenet of social media.

Physical controls do play an important role in social media security. Strong passwords, encryption, remote wipe, etc. are all important safeguards to ensure that unauthorized personnel don’t steal or gain access to trusted devices that have the capability (e.g., stored credentials) to access your social media accounts.

Content Moderation

Many organizations review and moderate content to block spam and offensive, abusive, and potentially regulated content. As social has become more and more ingrained as a means of communication within both everyday life and marketing strategy, content – both good and bad – has increased, and effective manual moderation has become essentially impossible.

Automated spam and malicious content removal tools are extraordinarily helpful technologies for combating the problem of content overload and removing inappropriate, offensive, or unwanted material from an account.  Although this doesn’t prevent the hack, it helps mitigate the impact and provides a quick remedy.

Profile Locking

Profile locks create a snapshot of your approved account profile – your correct logo, description, website, etc. – and regularly scan your profile for changes. If changes are made – by a hacker or a mistaken employee – profile locks will automatically alert you and can revert any subsequent posts and activity.

Publishing Tools

A common industry practice is to use publishing tools as a control mechanism for workflow and compliance. While these reduce the number of people with direct access to the account, they won’t actually catch or stop an account hack.

Publishing tools are a great way to make sure only authorized content gets distributed from authorized users. However, they only work if and when people use them correctly , and, more often than not, employees bypass them for convenience. Furthermore, there are cases where the credentials for publishing tools have been compromised and accounts were abused via the approved publisher.

So, although publishing apps are important and necessary, they have a very limited scope when it comes to security, and neither directly nor effectively stop hacks or other kinds of abuse of your social media accounts.

Application Controls

Do you know how many applications are authorized to publish to your accounts? Chances are there are quite a few, since you likely have multiple admins, each with their own authorized applications.

Social media application controls connect into your accounts to inventory and regulate which applications can access and publish on your behalf. Application controls, for example, can ensure that only a single application or explicitly approved set of publishing tools can push content to your social media accounts. In addition to helping you ensure compliant publishing, reduce blunders, and improve publishing ROI, they also ratchet down the attack surface to prevent attackers from bypassing your security controls, greatly reducing your risk profile.

Application controls aren’t the end all to social media security. If, for example, the only allowed publishing application is a web browser, then the browser itself is still a viable attack vector for hackers. But, if you combine your application controls with one or more of the aforementioned technologies/strategies, then your security increases exponentially.

Building a Secure Social Architecture

There is no perfect solution for securing your social media assets to effectively ward off hackers and prevent abuse. However, choosing a careful combination of technologies and strategies, such as the ones listed above, will give you the most effective defense against social media hacks and mistakes.

Devin Redmond is the CEO at Nexgate, a leading provider of social media security and compliance technology for enterprise brands.