SAS 70

January 12, 2020  4:45 AM

Moving forward, data science needs a holistic approach

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

Data science is a relatively new entry into the scientific fold. In general, all of science is concerned with data in the grander scheme of things, but data science has a much broader focus and tends to make much greater use of machine learning and sophisticated algorithms in order to parse data and help people understand it. The field has found great usefulness in the business sector, helping executives understand, in terms both broad and specific, the risks and consequences of important decisions they are required to make for their company.

The field of data science is exploding as companies find its applications indispensable while innumerable job-seekers look to start or restart their careers in the emerging discipline. However, as the supply of eager potential engineers grows, the demand will inevitably become more selective. Recent news has shown that it is simply not enough for a data scientist to be a data scientist any more – everyone in the field, from newcomers to seasoned experts, must begin to look at their responsibilities from a holistic point of view, understanding the problems from top to bottom, in order to truly do their best work.

Why is this the case? Even in other fields of science, basic understanding of the underlying principles that drive the research and data-collection processes is indispensable. A layperson may imagine that hard math-based sciences such as physics and engineering simply involve plugging numbers into formulas and having a computer do the rest of the work, but this is a common misconception that ignores the most important part of science: A firm understanding of the underlying principles of the problem at hand. Given that data scientists are first and foremost scientists, it is understandable that it is not immediately obvious why this could begin to be a problem in the first place.

The main issue is precisely that data scientists see themselves as scientists, not business people. Industry insiders have argued that a lack of understanding of fundamental business principles and inability or unwillingness to put in the social and political work of explaining the hard science concepts to managers and other office workers is a key reason behind the all-too-common failures of data science-driven projects to make a significant positive impact on a given company’s bottom line.

There is a bevy of recent commentary and industry news supporting the perspective that data scientists should be given more visibility and responsibility in a corporate setting so that they have the opportunity to explain their work to key decision-makers at the company, as well as more clear expectations that they should understand the business-based fundamentals that underlie their work in the first place to ensure that they can communicate effectively with key decision-makers. It is surprisingly easy to draw false conclusions from otherwise convincing data: That ice cream causes murder, for instance, or that organic food causes autism. Anyone who has an intimate relationship with reality or common sense should immediately see that the idea of causation between these trends is ridiculous, but when it comes to data science in a business setting, any scientist without an understanding of business principles could be unable to make a similar judgment.

Recent events in the business world support the claim that a holistic approach to data science is necessary. A merger between the companies Sisense and Periscope with a combined value in the hundreds of millions of dollars occurred because their founders agreed on the principle that data science should be approached from both ends – the former works from the business side, the latter from the data science side. Even discounting opinions and op-eds from experts within the industry, big moves like this speak volumes louder than words, showing that the executives in charge of the industry’s leading companies are more than willing to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to marrying data science to business analytics.

The industry is changing; executives and employees alike will have to change with it. There are certain things that are already obvious or second nature, like using Python or R for data science, or the need for sufficiently developed algorithms that can interface competently with the real world. Scientists – even data scientists in the business world – have frequently been sequestered, doing their work in relative isolation from the other sectors and industries, even employees, that benefit from the results of their research. This often results from a mistaken belief on the part of managers and executives that they need space and a lack of disturbances in order to function effectively, or even that they lack the disposition or attitude to fit in or socialize in the potentially more laid-back office environment. But more and more industry insiders and experts are coming forward and singing the praises of more closely integrating data scientists with the decision-makers at their companies – the reality is that everyone will have to adjust soon.

January 12, 2020  3:41 AM

How will you know if your new product idea is technically feasible?

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

Bringing something from a concept to an on-the-shelf product requires that it be technically feasible. Of course, desirability to the consumer is a partial predictor of product success. But beyond its ability to meet a need or fill a niche, your product must have a manufacturing plan that’s efficient and realistic.

Determining the technical feasibility of a new product involves creating and testing the item itself as well as evaluating your options for the manufacturing and distribution of your final product. You will analyze whether your current facilities have the resources for full-time production. It will be necessary to compare and select manufacturing locations, materials, and processes. You will need to consider the best transportation and distribution options for getting your product to market.

When you evaluate feasibility, you’ll analyze your design process and follow logical steps to move from the concept phase through to the production and testing phases and beyond. How will users interact with your product? What manufacturing processes will you employ? What will your distribution strategy be, and what shipping and transportation services will you need?

Because there are so many stages in the development of a product, various aspects of feasibility will be evaluated at several points along the way. New products meet needs and solve problems. But the very fact that the new product is necessary indicates that nothing of its kind has existed before. Innovations present challenges. Implementing your idea will involve testing and improving it. Because of this, you will find it helpful to consult technical experts and hire specialists to test your design.

Many times, it’s necessary to bring in partners who can provide formulation and development services during the initial prototyping and testing of your product. Companies with scientific and chemical expertise can be key in supplying the needed manufacturing processes.

Many services specialize in specific aspects of the design and production process. For example, some companies specialize in working with your research to bring the product to life so that it can be tested and improved. They may provide the testing services and additional technology to implement necessary changes in the development process.

Companies that support the development, testing, and finalizing of designs may refer you to other manufacturers for mass-production of the final product. The initial development and evaluation will have provided valuable information about the best methods and processes for overall manufacturing.

After a final product is completed and tested, the best long-term manufacturing methods can also be analyzed. Techniques will be evaluated for efficiency and effectiveness as part of the feasibility analysis. Whether it’s best to manufacture the product at your own facility or off-site will depend on the differing capabilities, equipment, and manpower of each option.

How will you know if your new product idea is technically feasible? You’ll determine this as you and your team of expert partners research and develop the best methods for bringing your product to life. When you’ve developed a product that’s desirable to the consumer and efficient and cost-effective to produce and distribute, you’ll be on the right track!

January 6, 2020  1:10 AM

5 Cyber Security Tips for Your Employees

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

Imagine getting to work on Monday, only to find out the entire company is in jeopardy because it was hacked. All your intellectual property is held to ransom, your employee and employer information is missing, and your company’s confidential files are lost.

A few years ago, this would be a campfire horror story about how the future would look. However, it is becoming a daily reality. Hackers are everywhere, and you need to protect yourself.

Ensuring your employees are also on board and practicing safe cyber activities is important. Here are some cybersecurity tips for your employees:

Check your devices

Cyber attackers are not afraid to be hands-on. They might steal a hone, tablet, or laptop to gain the information they require to plan a cyberattack.

Making sure the devices are kept in a safe place is an important step in avoiding this. Also, make sure all devices are locked with a secure password. If you walk away from your desk or public area, take your devices with you – even if you’re just going to the bathroom.

If you are working in a public place such as a coffee shop and you are using a public WiFi network, it is essential for you to hide your IP. This secures your device a little better and ensures everything on it is safe.

Avoid malware

Hackers are very smart these days. They know that the average employee knows better than to click on a pop-up ad, and that your company devices most likely block pop-ups anyway.

What they might do instead is send an official-looking email from a place that you trust. Through this email, they might embed a virus on your device, or ask for information that grants them access.

It is important to educate your employees about these kinds of scams, and ensure they know how to verify the authenticity of the email. Knowing the email actually comes from the sender company is not enough. You need to know that the information contained is legitimate.

Multifactor authentication

It might be quite frustrating when Google asks to verify your login via email or text. It seems like a waste of time. Besides, your emails aren’t that important anyway.

Using tools like this is called multifactor authentication. It may seem time-consuming but can save a lot of hassle in the future. Having employees confirm logins, login locations, and changes that occur can help you keep track of suspicious activity.

A hacker usually uses a profile that already exists in the system. By attempting access, someone will be notified and will know that the person is unauthorized. They can report it and the necessary steps can be taken to secure the company once more.

Use the phone

We have moved away from the era of calling when we need something. Nowadays, we send an email or a text and expect the same in return.

While your colleague from down the hall may legitimately require your social security number and other sensitive information, sending it on text or email is extremely dangerous. It leaves a pathway to be tracked or hacked and can compromise your security, and that of the company.

Even if she emails the request, it is better to pick up the phone or go there to give her what she requires. This leaves no trails, and you can check the authenticity of the request in this way.

Be download savvy

Downloading torrents like illegal music and series is known to be risky. However, downloading from a trusted brand may not be enough. Where the program is from is just as important as what is downloaded.

Limit downloads to a few devices that are as far removed from the general network as possible. Also, be sure to check your sources and scan your devices for malware regularly.

January 5, 2020  8:42 PM

How Much Does An IT Degree Cost?

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT
When you want to join the rapidly expanding world of IT, it’s important to know how much it’s going to set you back initially. With student loans nothing to kid about, you need to understand how much you can expect to pay in order to be part of the IT sector. This article will give you those details on the costs of an IT degree.

Associate’s Degree

Any college education is going to cost you money. How much you actually spend is dependent upon what school you attend. Obviously, a community college will be less costly than a huge public or private university. In terms of attending a community college, you can expect to pay around anywhere from $3,000 to $18,000.

Again, this is largely dependent upon what college you end up choosing to attend. For community colleges or if you’re only going for an Associate’s Degree, you typically only need 90 credit hours. Most people can complete those hours in two years.

With an Associate’s Degree, you typically cover a lot of the basics of IT. This can allow you to get your foot into the door of a lot of different entry-level jobs. By getting into that job, you can continue your education if you so desire or simply learn as you work. With an Associate’s Degree, you can expect a median income of around $67,990.

Bachelor’s Degree

For those who want a Bachelor’s Degree, you’re looking at adding on more school time. You’ll also need to attend either a 4-year college or university instead of a community college solely. This is when things can become a little pricey. Depending on the school, you might have to pay around $60,000 for your degree.

This is because it takes 180 credit hours to complete a degree. For most students, that can be completed in four years. However, though you do have to pay a great deal for that education, you can also expect to make more. Most IT specialists who receive a bachelor’s degree make around $139,220.

However, it’s also important to remember the additional costs of attending college. You’ll need to buy textbooks, equipment, and ensure that you have working internet in your dorm or apartment in order to complete your course work. Those small costs can add up.

Master’s Degree

If four years isn’t enough for you, then you can always elect to go for a Master’s Degree in IT. This allows you to have quite the resume to show possible employers. However, it can be costly. Master Degrees range anywhere from $30,000 to $120,000.

This is because you’re looking at around 30 credit hours. However, depending on the program, you may actually need more. Most Master’s Degrees also allow you to become graduate student teachers. You can teach a class and earn a little extra money in order to pay for your keep.

In-School or Online?

One last aspect to consider is whether you want a sit-down school experience or one that is online. Because it lacks having to pay bills that brick and mortar universities do, online universities are typically cheaper. However, not all employers are impressed with online universities.

In short, IT degrees can be expensive depending on what degree you’re pursuing and where you’re pursuing it. However, it can be an enriching career.

December 14, 2019  12:45 AM

How to Expand Your Website Internationally

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

When it comes to visitors to your website, the more, the merrier because more traffic has the potential to result in more business. Growing your sales across international borders will take your company to the next level. 

With a couple of tweaks to your existing website, you could launch yourself on the global stage, and from there, the sky’s the limit. 

Here’s what you should be doing: 

Optimize your website for visibility 

Getting your website to stand out from that of your competition in your own country is possible if you use the right SEO keywords. Finding out which keywords are trending and will generate traffic involves some research, but the results are worth the effort. 

You’ll need to expand your keyword research to make it an international strategy if you want to rank in global keyword search results. Keywords popular in one country might not rank anywhere in the next. What you have to say should remain relevant and interesting to customers, so you’ll have to amend your content to suit people’s needs. 

To get the right keywords that tailor to each country you’re targeting is complex and time-consuming. However, the rewards far outweigh the effort, and the return on investment for your hard work will surprise you. There are tools online that will help you, but you might want to consider hiring an expert on a freelance basis. 

Multiply the languages 

Across the world, people prefer seeing website content displayed in their native language. They are comfortable receiving information in a language they’re familiar with from their formative years and education.  

You’d be right in assuming that English is the most commonly used language, but by limiting yourself to only one language, you’re risking losing out on business. By utilizing more than one language, you allow your company to connect with potential customers, and they’ll lend more consideration to you as an option. 

Research which other languages are a priority for you and launch a version of your website in them. You’ll need to hire experts for web content translation because, in the hands of a novice, you could sink your business with poor-quality content conversion. When it comes to this aspect of going global, don’t compromise on quality. 

Maintain a good speed 

The speed at which your website loads is a vital component of making it a success among visitors. It can even influence your search engine ranking. Most people, especially millennials, will not wait longer than five seconds for a page to load. They’ll exit and move on, leaving your website in favor of another. 

You should consider speed in the context of different platforms if you want to get optimal results. Find out more about where users access websites to help you in building a successful website. Do they use mobile phones, tablets, or laptops? The best approach is to make sure that your site operates across multiple platforms and does not discriminate against any of them. 

Make wise financial decisions 

The product prices on your website should appear in local currency to avoid confusion among potential customers. People don’t like hauling out a calculator to do the conversion from one currency to another.  

Your prices might also not be a direct conversion, as costs might rise when you’re working with customers in foreign countries. Make sure that you follow the international protocols for expressing monetary units. 

Your payment options should cater to customers from all countries if you don’t want to experience a high rate of cart abandonment. The checkout process should run smoothly and offer customers payment options that suit them and their context.

December 13, 2019  11:25 AM

4 Simple Steps to Create a Coherent Business Data Operation

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

For any company doing business today, it should be already apparent that data is the new currency. Those that have it can control their markets and those that know how to use it can drive growth, sales, and profits more efficiently than their peers. For many businesses, however, gathering the data they need to feed their analytics and business intelligence processes isn’t the primary issue. Instead, the biggest hurdle they face is in finding a way to take the variety of disparate sources of information they already have and blend them into a single, coherent source of valuable insight.

There are, however, steps that may be taken by almost any business to try and overcome that particular hurdle. Some relate to the ways the data is gathered at the outset, while others concentrate on dealing with whatever data and systems are already in place. Here’s what they are, in the order they should be implemented.

Create a Central Data Authority

Because business data is never uniform by default, it can be difficult to maintain the kind of data transparency and visibility that’s required to manage it in an effective way. The only real way to start bringing order from that chaos is to appoint someone to manage it all. In some organizations, that person is known as a data evangelist. In others, it’s the job of the chief data scientist. What’s important, though, is that whatever you call them, that person must be endowed with the authority to manage any and all business data sources. They should be able to make whatever changes to existing data collection and processing procedures they believe are necessary to advance the business’s interests, and should have a direct communication channel to management to make sure their directives are carried out across the board.

Enforce Data Standards

Once someone’s put in charge of all things data, the next step is to institute some common data standards that apply to every part of the organization. For example, all customer data (no matter where it’s gathered or stored) should have a unique customer ID attached that provides a common bridge between systems. Such common data standards are a prerequisite to creating a Master Data Management (MDM) plan that will govern the company’s efforts into the future. Without an MDM plan in place, business data is ungovernable because no standardized data sharing protocols will ever be possible. The bottom line is that strict data standards are the foundation of all sound business data strategies, and must be in place before anything else can happen.

Choose a Data Integration Partner

Even after business data is standardized, it will still remain siloed within different departments and systems. For that reason, it’s necessary to build out methods and systems that will create a unified data infrastructure for the business. In most cases, the most effective way to do this is to rely on a data integration specialist like Adeptia to help create a data map and develop methodologies to reliably transfer data between all of the systems involved. This is arguably the most critical step in any business’s data journey because getting it wrong can create serious data integrity issues and affect a variety of systems simultaneously. In the absence of a robust in-house data engineering team, it’s a task best left to a trusted partner.

Build an Analytics Operation

With the business’s data tamed and put in good order, the final step is to build a data analytics operation to make use of it. Depending on the industry, this can be as simple as hiring a business intelligence specialist, or as complex as recruiting a team of data scientists to create custom data solutions to suit the company’s needs. The decision on how to proceed should begin with the development of some specific goals for the operation. The complexity of those goals should serve as a guide to how to create the needed analytics team.

Analyze and Benefit

As long as each step laid out here gets done right, and everything’s completed in the right order, getting over the aforementioned common data hurdle isn’t all that difficult. As with most other business goals, all that’s required is some solid planning and execution, and the results should be perfect. Then it’ll be time to start making use of all of the data that’s been so well cared for at every step of the process – and gaining critical insights that will fuel business success.

December 13, 2019  4:20 AM

4 Ways SMBs Can Adapt to Support a Mobile Workforce

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

4 Ways SMBs Can Adapt to Support a Mobile Workforce

Today, mobile computing isn’t just an alternative to traditional desktops; it’s the preferred way that people get their work done. For small businesses, however, that represents an undoing of the IT infrastructure that has been the standard for over 30 years. Now, they must find ways to support mobile workers and all of the data access and security challenges that come with them – and that’s not always easy or inexpensive to accomplish.

Still, there are some relatively painless ways that small businesses can adapt to support a mobile workforce. Most of them can be rolled out at little expense to the business and will serve the dual aims of maintaining security while increasing mobility and flexibility. Here are four of the best ways to do it.

Consider a Move to Cloud Services

Aside from the rise of mobile computing, there’s also been another big technology shift that has had a profound effect on the way that small businesses get their work done – the continued expansion of cloud services aimed at the sector. Today, there are few business processes that can’t be managed through one Software as a Service (SaaS) solution or another, and they’re a cost-effective way to stay ahead of the technology curve for the companies that rely on them. They also happen to be a great way for small businesses to handle a mobile workforce, because they are already designed for remote access and typically have security features already baked in. By moving to these cloud services, small businesses inherit a de-facto mobile work solution, too.

Try Switching to DaaS

Software solutions, as it turns out, aren’t the only things that you can provide via the modern internet. It’s now possible for small businesses to supply their employees with a complete desktop infrastructure with no physical on-site hardware to manage. It’s called Desktop as a Service (DaaS), and it’s the small business version of the corporate-scale Virtual Desktop Infrastructure that’s become common these days. Small businesses that go this route can free themselves of the costly hardware replacement cycle that comes with a traditional networking and computing environment, instead leaving all of the expense and heavy-lifting to a third-party provider. Best of all, it’s a solution that’s tailor-made for employees who wish to use their own mobile devices for work – as it provides a complete desktop experience on any compatible hardware.

Turn to a VPN

For small businesses that have already invested large sums into on-site servers and desktop hardware and can’t justify abandoning them yet, there’s another option. It’s to roll out a VPN server on-site or rely on a third-party commercial VPN provider to secure the connections of remote workers. For an on-site solution, it’s as simple as investing in a business-class router that supports VPN connections. If the primary concern is to prevent any kind of data theft while employees work remotely (and local network access isn’t needed), there is no shortage of cheap VPN providers that can fit the bill without denting the company’s bottom line. Either is a great security upgrade for a small business and should be in use even if remote work isn’t a frequent occurrence.

Set up Remote Desktop Access

Since small businesses sometimes rely on desktops alone and have no server infrastructure to speak of, sometimes the best solution for remote workers is to have direct access to their office computers from wherever they are. The good news is that in most cases, the software that’s needed is already on the computers and just needs some configuration. If the desktop is running any recent version of Windows (and let’s face it, that’s almost a certainty), the instructions to do this are straightforward. For other types of PCs, a solution like NoMachine is a great way to go. It’s important to remember, of course, that any small business that opts to go this route should do so in concert with a VPN solution as covered earlier. If they don’t, it could pose a security risk to their office computers and allow potential attackers a route to get to the data they contain.

Simple Remote Work Solutions

As the above solutions should make clear, there are several ways for small businesses to support remote workers, no matter what their needs or existing infrastructure look like. In the case of the SaaS or DaaS solutions, they also provide serious cost-savings over the long term, which makes them an attractive option in any case. No matter how it’s done, though, small businesses have it well within their power to embrace the modern mobile working trends without too much effort, and they should take advantage of it right away.

December 3, 2019  3:44 AM

How an Effective Workflow Helps Improve Your Business

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

An effective workflow is achieved when you find a way to streamline the processes in your business to avoid errors and delays. Reaching this state of productive nirvana is not as easy as you might imagine it would be. It involves a lot of time spent observing, brainstorming ideas for improvement, and then implementing them. 

During the observation phase, you need to be able to step back and view the organization as a whole. But at the same time, you must understand the fine mechanics of what goes into its daily operations. 

What would be the point, you might ask? Here are just some of the benefits of ensuring your ‘workflow is working’: 

Better customer service 

You went into business to make money, and your income is derived from your clients. In today’s fickle market, poor customer service will only send your clients into the open arms of your competition. Unnecessary delays and inefficiencies result in a failure to adhere to the promises your sales staff make to your customers. 

When you’ve improved your workflow, all departments are integrated, and timelines are set for each task from the time an order is placed to the time of delivery. This is an important function of custom software development. Sales staff will give your customers realistic expectations about when they’ll get what they’ve paid for. And remember, happy customers mean repeat business and growing profits. 

Improved quality and quantity of products and services 

An enhanced workflow allows you to pick up the pace at which you supply goods and services to your clients. This, in turn, makes it possible for you to increase your output and service more customers. Whereas you might have been processing 1,000 orders a day, you could now be processing 1,500. 

Alternatively, you could spend the extra time you have to improve the quality of your product or service, thereby enhancing its value to the client. People like to feel that they’re getting value for their money and offering them that will get you more business from them. The customer is king, after all. 

Improved accountability 

With an optimized workflow process, staff members are forced to be accountable for their actions or lack thereof. Once tasks are delegated in a clear, concise manner, employees are unable to duck the issue if targets aren’t met. Using collaboration tools, you can lay a project out from beginning to end. 

Each task along the way shows to whom it is delegated and when it should be finished. All the parties involved can track the completion of tasks to make sure they’ve fulfilled their obligations. There are no ambiguities when you work with a collaborative tool, and with everything in black and white, people will be more motivated to do their jobs. 

Happier employees 

Think about your first job. You did not like having your supervisor breathing down your neck, checking on you every ten seconds, did you? 

The chances are your employees don’t like it much either. However, with an undefined or inefficient workflow, that is precisely what happens. People have to micromanage their subordinates to get the job done. There’s no need for this with a functional workflow. 

Once employees work within set deadlines with the knowledge that they are accountable, they will feel more motivated, and the need to micromanage them will decrease. Instead, they’ll get on with the job themselves, allowing managers to get other, more important tasks done. 

Human resources are a valuable asset, and your employees will be far more productive if they’re in a workplace they look forward to going to each day.

December 1, 2019  12:14 AM

How Technology Is Changing What We Eat

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

When it comes to human existence, air, water, and food are important for survival. The average American consumes on average a ton of food each year according to data from the US Department of Agriculture. Over the last several decades the eating habits of Americans have changed and technology has had a hand in many of these changes. 

Technology has a large influence over every aspect of people’s lives today. This includes the way we communicate, work, health, fitness, and even the way that food is cooked and eaten. There are always new diets and ideas about the way people should be eating. This not only includes what they should be eating but when they should be eating as well. This is seen in the increasingly popular intermittent fasting way of eating. 

Technology is testing limits with new innovations that not only affect how a person feeds themselves but also by triggering changes in the human body as time passes. People are changing the way that they prepare food, how they eat, when they eat, and what they eat in an attempt at trying to live a healthier life. Numerous kitchen gadgets that are available as well as apps on phones that help people know when and what to eat are leading the way to achieving a healthier lifestyle. Easier to Use Fresh Ingredients

There are many great gadgets that make it easier than ever to use fresh ingredients in recipes at home. It no longer takes forever to chop up fresh fruits and vegetables as a salad chopper makes the job quite simple. There are instant pots that can be used to create great tasting yogurt in no time at all. 

Tools such as citrus juicer and oil misters allow a person to easily juice fresh fruit that can be added to their salads, smoothies, and other dishes. Oil misters allow oil to be easily added to dishes to provide the healthy fats that the body is seeking. All of these gadgets are making eating healthy much easier. 

Perhaps one of the more advanced ways that technology has changed the way that we eat is through the use of diet and health applications that can be added directly to a smartphone. These apps make it easy to count calories, provide recipe ideas, record exercise, and more to help a person stay on track with their health care needs and goals. 

As technology continues to advance, the way that a person eats and prepares their food is going to continuously change as well. Humans have come a long way from the times of grilling chunks of meat over an open fire pit. Not only is the way that food is prepared and eating being changed through the use of technology, but also the way that a person tracks what they are eating is changing as well. Technology has the potential of making eating better and more importantly knowing exactly what is being eaten, even easier. 

November 1, 2019  2:47 AM

How to Use Social Media for Small Business

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

When you own a small business, you may feel overwhelmed by the idea of having to develop successful social media campaigns. Social media provides one of the best ways to get new customers and retain current ones. Don’t be put off by the fact that you think it is too expensive or difficult. Here are some ways to reach an audience, build awareness of your brand and drive sales. 

Start with a plan

If you just dive right in, you have no idea what you’re trying to achieve. Creating a social media plan upfront ensures that your efforts on social media support your business goals. You need to:

Set goals and objectives – these should be based on metrics that will have a real impact on your business. 

Research your competition – don’t copy them but learn from what they’ve done. 

Find inspiration – ask existing followers what they would like to see more of and research case studies. 

Create a social media calendar – decide what content to use, when and where to post it and at what time. Try starting with the 80-20 rule – use 80% of content to entertain, educate and inform and 20% for brand promotion and selling of products. 

Use the right tools

As a small business, making use of a social media management tool can automate and simplify much of your work. There are many tools that can help you to boost your productivity and make the most of social media marketing without having to have a big social media marketing team. 

A tool like BuzzSumo can help you with content curation, allowing you to find and organize posts to share. Canva can help you to create eye-catching graphics for posts. Brandwatch allows you to create in-depth reports so you can get a picture of your overall efforts. 

Choose the right platform for your business

Don’t just make assumptions about where your target audience spends time online. Take a good look at the data. For instance, your instincts may tell you to target millennials on Instagram, but the data will tell you that about 80% of millennials still use Facebook, so you shouldn’t focus solely on Instagram. 

Hootsuite compiled some demographics information that can help you find out where your audience really spends time online. Of course, you will also need to get to know your audience to confirm where your efforts should be directed to have the most effect. 

Build relationships with your audience

The great value of social media is that you can relate directly to your audience. This allows you to build up relationships over time instead of asking for a sale upfront. When people engage with your content, you can reply and start to build trust. 

Joining Facebook groups is another way to build community and grow relationships. Building relationships with micro-influencers and other entrepreneurs in your niche can be fruitful. 

Focus on quality over quantity

Creating quality content on a couple of key channels is more effective than trying to conquer them all. If you focus on one or two channels at first and do this successfully, you can expand your efforts. 

Be authentic – a Stackla survey found that 86% of consumers say authenticity is what makes them support certain brands. Your posts should be honest and offer real value. 

People expect posts to include a visual element and Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest, in particular, are visual-first platforms. Use great imagery in your posts and it will increase engagement. 

As you implement your strategy, you need to keep track of what is successful and what isn’t so that you can keep fine-tuning your efforts and improve your results. 

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