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Small Business Cyber Security Basics

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Our world relies heavily on technology and the Internet. Criminals target companies of all sizes, including small businesses. Knowing a few security basics can help you protect your business and even reduce the risk of your business falling victim to a cyber criminal’s attacks.

 

Below are six key areas to focus on to help make your business more secure:

 

1.) Require strong passwords on everything

Strong passwords are at least 12 characters long and are a mix of numbers, symbols, and capital and lowercase letters. Use strong passwords for all laptops, tablets, computers, and smartphones owned or used by your company and your employees. Make sure that no one leaves any of these devices unattended in public places. Never reuse old passwords and never share passwords in texts or by email. Make sure that you also limit the number of unsuccessful log-in attempts to limit password-guessing attacks.

 

2.) Use multi-factor authentication

Require multi-factor authentication to access areas of your network with sensitive information. This requires additional steps beyond logging in with a password such as a temporary code on a smartphone or a key that’s inserted into a computer.

 

3.) Secure your router

Make sure that you change the default name and password that comes pre-installed on your router. Make sure that you also turn off remote management and log out as the administrator once the router is set up. Make sure your router offers WPA2 or WPA3 encryption, and that it’s turned on. Encryption protects information sent over your network so it can’t be read by outsiders. If you do not know how to do this we recommend getting in touch with a reputable tech company to take care of this for you.

 

4.) Keep all software up to date

Make sure that all of your devices are setup to automatically update when an update becomes available. This includes any apps, programs, web browsers, hardware, and operating systems.

 

5.) Secure all of your files

Backup all important files offline – either on an external hard drive or in the cloud. Make sure that the offline backup is secured with a strong password. Make sure you store all of your sensitive paper files securely. Also, make sure that you encrypt the data on devices and other media that contain sensitive personal information. This includes laptops, tablets, smartphones, removable drives, backup tapes, and storage solutions.

 

6.) Train your staff

Create a culture in your company of security by implementing a regular schedule of employee training and make sure that you keep your employees updated as you find out about new risks and vulnerabilities.

 

 

Most importantly, make sure that you have a plan in place just in case you do experience a breach. You will need to get backups online quickly so you can get back to work as well as notify any customers who may also be impacted. The FTC’s Data Breach Response: A Guide for Business gives you steps that you can take.

 

Again, cyber security is increasingly important in our world. If you are uncomfortable or lack the knowledge to implement security at your company we highly recommend hiring a professional technology company to keep your information secure.

How to Write a Press Release That Gets Noticed

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

 

You may not know it but press releases are still an effective marketing tool for small businesses. Press releases are released online through news services and press release services. This means that your press release will not only be seen by journalists or bloggers, they can also turn up in general search results by the public.

 

Below are the key elements of every press release as well as a few tips to help you write a good one:

 

Headline

Make sure that your headline is attention-grabbing, while also immediately conveying what the release is about. Your headline should be no more than 100 characters long as shorter headlines are easier to share on social media platforms and more of it will show in search results online. Utilizing pertinent keywords in the headline will also help it show up in searches.

 

Subheading

Your subheading is a short summary of the main idea of the press release. The subhead should add a bit more information and expands on the headline itself.

 

Date

Adding the current date along with the city and state where your business is located will help journalists looking in your area for local businesses find you as well as ensure they aren’t using outdated releases.

 

First Paragraph

The first paragraph of your release should briefly explain the most important information in your release. Make sure to include the five W’s (Who, What, When, Where and Why) as well as your company name. People today have short attention spans, and most won’t read beyond the first paragraph, so you need to make sure what they do read grabs their attention.

 

Body Copy

This is where you can explain your announcement in greater detail. Make sure to break it up into paragraphs for easy reading by the consumer. Use informal language, as the body copy should sound natural, and include any relevant keywords.

 

Quotes

It is always a good idea to include a quote or two from your company’s key people (the president, CEO, or the company’s authority on the subject matter). Always include that person’s full name and title.

 

Extra Flair

If possible, include things like photos, infographics, videos, and other visual elements that a journalist can use to help differentiate your release from others. Include photos of the product, person, or event that your release is covering. You should also make high-resolution photos available for any journalists that would like them (this can be done by posting them to your own site and including links for download in the press release).

 

Call to Action

Near the end of your press release always be sure to include a call to action. This is something you want the reader to do once they have finished reading your release – maybe visit your website, learn more about your new product, reserve tickets for an upcoming event, etc. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to contact you. Make sure to include a link to your website as well as a phone number the reader can call.

 

Boilerplate

A boilerplate refers to a brief paragraph about your business that you include at the end of every press release. This should short paragraph should include your full business name, a short bit about what it does, when it was founded, and any other important information that you want a reader to know. Keep it short and sweet.

 

Media Contact

The media contact is someone at your business who is available to quickly respond to inquiries from the press release. List multiple ways to contact your spokesperson (phone, email, social handles, etc.).

 

To sum up:

  • Press releases should be no more than two pages in length.
  • Start with an eye-catching headline and subheading.
  • Include quotes from key personnel in your company.
  • Spice it up with enticing visuals.
  • Include links when appropriate.
  • Use relevant keywords but don’t go overboard.
  • Make it very easy for the reader to contact you.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

Veteran-owned small businesses have a lot to offer, to their customers, their communities, and to prospective employees. Despite the focus and push for veteran employment through diversity and inclusion, there needs to be greater focus on supplier diversity for veteran owned businesses.  I also believe that corporations need to integrate their Supplier Diversity, Inclusion and Diversity and Veteran Affinity and mentorship groups for real success.

 

Some interesting stats according to the Small Business Administration (SBA):

  • Veterans are a key part of any supplier diversity program.
  • Veterans are one of the most successful groups of business owners in America.
  • 1 in 10 businesses are veteran-owned.
  • Veterans are 30% more likely to hire other veterans.
  • 5% of VOSB’s operate in the professional, scientific, technical services industries, and the construction industry.
  • 1 % are in wholesale and retail trade.

 

Don’t Just Hire Veterans – Do Business with Them! There are many good reasons to work with veteran-owned businesses.

 

Know the Rules

The federal government requires 3% of the total value of all prime contract and subcontract awards go to Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs).

 

Finding Veteran-Owned Businesses

The very best ways to find a veteran-owned business is to search connect with and sponsor trade associations such as VAMBOA with huge memberships of Veteran Business Owners.   VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association can connect the RFIs and RFPs of your corporation with our network of over 7,000 members.

I believe that time is at a premium for small Veteran and Service-Disabled Businesses as it is for the corporations that are required to have a diverse supplier network.  Instead of spending the time of staff and the expense of attending conference, become a VAMBOA sponsor and we will place your message online to our large membership and on social media with almost a quarter of a million fans and followers.

 

 

 

-Do Your Research
There are good vendors and bad ones. Simply having a federal VOSB/SDVOSB certification does not mean that the vendor is experienced or any good at their job. Always ask for work examples or references as you would with any vendor, supplier, or potential employee.

Any company can slap a “veteran-owned” sticker on their location or product but some may not be honest, and fraud is a concern. Most states will certify a business as VOSB/SDVOSB if they have their federal VA certification. Before doing business make sure that you request a copy of that certification.

 

-Get Management on Board

You will need to gain the support of your senior management in order to add veteran-owned businesses to your approved supplier lists. Veteran-owned businesses now provide almost every type of product or service you can think of.  Make sure the entire company is on the same page about including VOSB/SDVOSBs. Veterans hit all the boxes as they are diverse group including minorities, women and disabled.

 

-Educate Your Purchasing and Contract Departments
Once you are sure that you have clearly outlined your goals for including veterans in your diversity supplier efforts, provide well researched lists to your key personnel of veteran-owned businesses to help jump-start the process. The most common internal pushback is lack of access to known veteran-owned businesses. If you cannot find them – it is hard to work with them. Make it as easy as possible for your employees to include VOSB/SDVOSBs when your company is looking for a vendor or supplier.  The very best way is to become a VAMBOA sponsor.  Contact us at info@vamboa.org.

 

-Tipping the Bidding Scales in Your Favor
Sometimes working with veteran-owned businesses can bring you a competitive edge when bidding a job. Certain agencies will give preference to companies that utilize VOSB/SDVOSBs. Each federal agency sets participation goals for small businesses in procurement contracts. Regulations require Federal purchases over $10,000, but less than $250,000 to automatically reserve, or set-aside, a portion of the contract monies for small businesses.

 

Working with VOSB/SDVOSB can help you, the VOSB/SDVOSB you work with, and our economy in general. Next time you need a new supplier, vendor, or partner it may be in your best interest to find one being run by a vet.   Contact VAMBOA – info@vamboa.org

 

Tips to Obtain Your First 1,000 Instagram Followers

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Starting out in social media for any business seems difficult but it really doesn’t have to be so intimidating. Building a large following takes time and effort but it should be fun. There are a few things that you can do to help increase your followers and below are some tips to obtain first 1,000 followers a bit more quickly.

 

  • Hashtags

Using popular hashtags is a great way to gain followers but the catch is the hashtag must be relevant to your business. Additionally, be sure to mix a variety of popular hashtags with some less popular hashtags so that you don’t simply get lost if there is a high level of competition for the tags.

 

  • Eye Candy

If your content is not interesting or visually appealing, people are not going to follow you. Invest some time and effort into the content that you post.  Take time and spend the money to have a professional photo shoot to build a library of high-quality photos to promote yourself on social media. Spur-of-the-moment smartphone photos are great occasionally but followers will be more willing to stay engaged if your content provides high-quality eye candy.

 

  • Engagement

Set aside a small amount of time everyday to engage with your followers such as liking their content, responding to comments, mentions, and private messages. This is also a good time to search for other accounts that you would like to follow. Simply liking a post is not going to cut it. Your like will get lost in the hundreds of other likes and will go unnoticed. Comments force interaction and tend to stay more visible.

 

  • Giveaways!

To build your following, consider a giveaway promotion. Many giveaways have multiple rules that help boost your account, reach, and engagement. Ask your followers to “Follow our account and tag two friends in the comments below.” By having people tag two friends, you will gain more attention and, hopefully, a lot of new followers.  Don’t add too many rules, make your rules clear, make sure to add an end date to the giveaway and keep on top of the promotion to engage those playing.

 

  • Account Setup

If are using a personal account for your business brand, we highly recommend changing it over to a business account. The business account provides you access to analytics and other benefits that are not available with personal accounts. If you are using a personal account and do not want to switch to a business account, make sure your personal account is set to public. This may sound obvious to some but you really need to make sure that your account is not private. Business accounts are automatically made public.

 

  • Instagram Insights

If you have a business account, you have access to Instagram Insights for your account. Instagram Insights doesn’t necessarily provide super in depth analytics, but it does give you basic information that can assist you in understanding your followers, their behaviors, and the best times to post for engagement.

 

In summary, gaining 1,000 followers will take time.  Remember to be patient, post consistently, post quality, and engage your audience!  Remember to leverage relevant hashtags, tag other brands and individuals, and consider hosting a giveaway. Taking these steps will help your account grow and boost your business.

Small Business Instagram Guide

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Why is Instagram so important for your business? The customers you want to reach are using the platform to connect with friends and businesses just like yours. Instagram has over a billion monthly active users and most people use the platform to find and connect with business brands.

 

Where to Start:

Instagram is not very accessible using a web browser… so you will need to start by downloading the Instagram app on your cell phone and then set up your business account.

 

A few setup tips:

  • Make sure you create a business and not a personal account.
  • Add a contact button so followers can get in touch with you directly from Instagram.
  • Upload an eye-catching and relevant profile photo.
  • Write a compelling bio including links to your business website and relevant hashtags.

 

What to Post:

Instagram is all about photos and videos! People always notice the visuals before they read your caption.   Quality is what is important and not simply quantity. Make sure that your posts are highly visual, high-quality, and engaging.

 

Post items such as:

  • Your team
  • Your products
  • Your services
  • Your events
  • Your boasts
  • Your giveaways
  • Your specials
  • Videos
  • Customer quotes or testimonials
  • Share user-generated content about your business

 

Your followers want to see content that adds value without being inundated with the same kinds of content repeatedly or overwhelmed by promotional content about your business.

 

When to Post:

Your goal for using Instagram should be to maximize follower engagement and get as many new eyes on your brand as possible. This is easiest when you post at times your customers will be on the platform and most likely to like, comment on, and share your posts with their friends. When is this?  Begin by posting a few times a week at varying times of the day and watch your Instagram Insights.  A clear picture will emerge and provide best times that work for your content and your followers.

 

Users on Instagram value QUALITY over QUANTITY. You do not need to post multiple times a day to achieve your Instagram goals. Make sure you post a couple of times a week and make sure those posts are highly engaging.  This goes further than daily low quality posts.

 

Extra Impact:

  • Be Consistent – Use the same look and feel for all of your posts. This includes filters, colors, fonts, and the overall tone of the post. This consistency builds your brand recognition and keeps your followers familiar with your vibe and voice.

 

  • Be Compelling – You have to capture the attention of your audience in order to engage them with your company. A great photo or video will pull them in, but it’s the caption that will show off the personality and unique voice of your business. Make sure the accompanying text is well thought out and short and sweet. Don’t forget to tell them to follow.

 

  • Use Hashtags – Using relevant hashtags will get new eyes on your business’ content and boost the associated post’s engagement. Instagram users can also follow hashtags as well as accounts that means more engagement for your company. If you use hashtags, people are following. Be sure to place them at the end of your post so they don’t distract from your message.

 

  • Interact – Engaging with your audience is just as important as posting your content. Respond to comments, mentions, and private messages.  This is a great way to get more eyes on you. The followers of other accounts will see the comment you made and just might click over to your profile.

 

The ultimate goal for your business on Instagram is to engage the right customers and build relationships to make you stand out from your competition. Take the time to setup your account properly, post awesome content, use relevant and popular hashtags, and make sure that you interact.

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