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The social media revolution

Posted on 3 November 2009

Think social media like Facebook and Twitter are just a fad?  Think again.

Widespread use by consumers and businesses has led industry experts to claim that "social media is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate" and much more than just the current 'in thing'.

Watch this amazing video for some statistics that will definitely change the way you think about social media and inspire you to get creative about how you can use it in your business.

> Watch the Social Media Revolution video now

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How to make and save money in your business with the internet

Posted on 9 February 2009

The economic downturn is all over the headlines and it’s making business owners everywhere nervous.  But you can join the businesses that are still doing well by remaining positive and applying clever strategies to generate revenue as well as save money in your businesses.

Cutting back on essentials is not the answer.  The secret is making your business smarter by looking at strategies that don’t cost a lot, but can generate good revenue for your business.  Many businesses are now using the popularity of the internet and the array of strategies it offers to their advantage – attracting new customers, adding value for existing customers, streamlining their internal processes and cutting administration time all at the same time.

Here are some tips:

Get smart about marketing

The number one strategy in any business to increase your revenue is working with your existing clients and prospects because they are more likely to buy from you than someone new.  An ideal strategy for communicating with your existing database is email marketing because it’s affordable, targeted, personalised and easily measured.  Best of all, it has a return on investment of around $50 for every $1 spent (Direct Marketing Association, 2007). Invest in some quality email marketing software then start sending regular emails to the past, present and potential customers in your database to keep your business top of mind and include special offers to build their loyalty.

Experiment with different strategies

The trick with email marketing is test, test, test until you find what works.  Some potential money-making ideas to try out include - a regular email newsletter to keep your business top of mind for your database (you can add value with great advice, tips and special offers just for them), promotional emails to generate instant sales with little effort, or more creative strategies such as seminar invitations, surveys, ebooks and referral programs.  There are a lot of cost-effective marketing strategies out there that are made even easier and cheaper by the internet, so it’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

Make your website visible

If you aren’t actively promoting your website, no one will ever find it and you will miss out on customers.  The best way to get traffic to your site is to have a presence on search engines like Google and Yahoo because millions of people use them every day.  If a prospective customer uses Google to search for what you sell, does your website appear on the first page?  Users tend to click on one of the first few listings, so if yours isn’t there, you miss out.  Find a search engine optimisation specialist to help you make your site search engine friendly with keywords and backlinks because a presence in the search engines will definitely boost your revenue.

Get your website working hard

With a few tweaks here and there, you can really make your website stand out from your competition and actively attract new customers to your business. Ultimately you would like website visitors to contact your business immediately when they see your website, but that won’t always happen so you need a back up plan.  Ensure that you don’t miss out on any leads by offering them some kind of incentive to capture their details, such as a competition or ebook giveaway in return for their email address.  This is one of the great strengths of the internet – there’s many ways to get a lead so you don’t just have to wait for the phone to ring.

Make information easily accessible

The internet can also help you cut your administration costs.  If you find yourself forever on the phone answering the same questions from your customers, you should use a searchable knowledgebase on your website to store all this common information and frequently asked questions – clients simply go to your website to get the answers they need rather than calling you.  You can even upload forms and documents for clients to download to save you printing and postage costs.  These things seem small, but they can make a huge difference to your budget and your productivity in the long-term.

Streamline your internal communication

The often overlooked application for the internet is communication with your staff and other internal groups like suppliers and resellers.  Of course you can use email marketing to send memos and organise events, but you can also set up online training videos and podcasts as a cost-effective alternative to traditional training days, have a knowledgebase for internal documents and information and even conduct staff performance evaluation surveys online.  These are just a few examples – if you get creative you will come up with many ways to streamline your internal processes, minimise costs and motivate your staff using the internet.

The best way to survive challenging times is to be proactive rather than reactive, so getting your online presence up to scratch now will help you save money and find new opportunities for making money in 2009.

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Say no to internet filtering!

Posted on 16 November 2008

In a world controlled by laws, governments and powerful corporations, the internet is the last completely free media left.  It's not owned by anyone, so it's one of the few ways for us to exercise our right to free speech.

However, the Australian Government is about to change the internet landscape forever...

They are about to introduce a mandatory filtering system to block 'unwanted content', which means certain websites will be blocked at an Internet Service Provider level and won't be accessible for any Australians.  While the Government's intentions are honourable (preventing access to inappropriate material like child pornography), this filter will have a crippling affect on the web industry and sets a dangerous precedent for internet censorship.

The filtering technology is far from perfect and innocent content will be inadvertantly blocked.  In recent test conducted by the Government, only 92% of the banned websites were blocked successfully, with a failure rate of 4% which saw harmless content blocked as well.  So there is a huge risk that legitimate sites will be blocked, potentially denying Australians access to important information and resources.

Also, the filter will slow down internet access for all Australians.  Depending on the technology used, this could mean a drop in speed of anything 2% to 40%. Obviously slow internet access will inconvenience internet users, but it has much more serious ramifications - businesses that rely on the internet will suffer significant financial losses because their customers won't be able to access their site properly.

Website Standards Association Inc. strongly objects to this filter because it undermines our right to free speech, harms online business and takes our internet speed back years.  We believe that there is content on the internet that is damaging and inappropriate, especially for children, but this mandatory filtering system is not the right way to go about blocking it.

We want all Australians to be informed about how this issue and how it affects them.  Here are some resources and articles that are well worth checking out:

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Usability matters - just ask Target

Posted on 19 September 2008

Millions of people use the internet on a daily basis and a large percentage of them have disabilities that affect the way they view and use websites.  So if your website doesn't cater for these consumers, you are missing out on their money.  And they spend alot - billions each year in fact.

Many websites and website developers have usability standards in place to ensure that the software that disabled people use to browse the internet can work effectivey with their site.  Websites that meet W3C standards (like those of all our members) can be used by disabled people, which is why it's so important to make sure your website developer is W3C compliant.

If a disabled person can't use your website, they will probably just leave and find one they can use.  But sometimes, you can end up in court - which is what happened to Target in the US.

After consumers and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) complained to Target about the fact that their website couldn't be used by blind people and Target refused to make the site more usable, the NFB brought a class action lawsuit against Target.  This case has been going on since 2006, but just a few weeks ago Target finally settled the case by paying out US$6 million to a fund for those affected by the inaccessibility of the site.

For a big company like Target, that money wouldn't be a big deal but the case sets an important precedent for other companies and shows just how important it is that all websites meet usability standards.

Check out the WSA usability standards to see if your website complies.  If it doesn't, take the standards to your website developer and ask them to get your site up to scratch.

Read more about the Target case here.

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Spam Compliance - What You Need To Know

Posted on 7 May 2008
Australia enacted the Spam Act 2003 in 2004 to combat the growing volume of unsolicited messages. It is illegal  under the Spam Act to send certain unsolicited emails and severe penalties may apply for those that do.

What is spam?

As you are probably well aware, the term “spam” refers to electronic “junk mail”. You are prohibited under the Spam Act to send an electronic message to a recipient containing an invitation to do business without the consent of the message recipient.

What constitutes consent?

Consent can be obtained either expressly or by inference. Express consent is obtained via conduct such as newsletter subscription, ticking a box, completing a form or over the telephone. Inferred consent may be established through an existing relationship (business or other) or through conspicuous publication of a work-related Email address.

What does the Spam Act cover?

The Spam Act covers messages sent via Email, Short Message Service (SMS), Multimedia Message Service (MMS) and Instant Messaging Services (such as Microsoft Instant Messenger). The Spam Act does not cover voice telemarketing, internet pop-ups or messages sent via facsimile.

Who is exempt from the Spam Act?

Government bodies, non-government organisations, registered political parties, charities, religious organisations and educational institutions are partially exempt. Despite the exemption, partially exempted bodies must meet the identity requirement set out below.

Complying with the Spam Act

If your business practices include the sending of electronic messages, you must ensure that:
  1. You can establish that you have obtained consent to send a commercial electronic message to a recipient
  2. A commercial electronic message sent by you to a recipient accurately identifies yourself or your organisation as the authorised sender of the message
  3. A commercial electronic message sent by you to a recipient contains an ‘unsubscribe’ facility

Penalties

The main penalties imposed are civil fines and injunctions. However, formal warnings, infringement notices and undertakings are also common. Monetary penalties of up to $1.1 million per day and orders for the forfeiture of profits and compensation can be imposed upon a party that is in breach of the Spam Act.

This article was supplied by Jamie White, Intellectual Property and Internet Lawyer and a Registered Trade Marks Attorney with Ffrench Commercial Lawyers.


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