96% of small businesses had experienced at least one issue with their telecommunications services, according to a recent ACCAN survey of 100 small businesses. This is a concerning figure, as many small businesses rely heavily on these services to keep their businesses operational. Profits and productivity are lost when services don’t deliver.
The top issues were internet speeds; internet congestion during peak times; costs; and outages. Slow internet speed was the most prevalent issue with 73% of respondents reporting this problem.
Many respondents reported multiple issues. 48% said they experienced both slow speeds and congestion at peak times. Almost one quarter of respondents said they had experienced all four of the top issues.
The small businesses surveyed were from a range of sectors including: agriculture; professional services; education and training; retail; and others.
84% of respondents said that they contacted their provider regarding a problem and 64% said that issues were difficult to resolve. Comments from the survey revealed: difficulty getting getting resolutions to infrastructure problems; commitment of resources by Telcos to fixing issues; and the frustration felt generally about getting resolutions.
It’s really important that small businesses raise issues with their service providers even though this is time consuming. They should document all the problems as well as any losses or costs incurred. Where possible they should provide supporting evidence. If they’re unable to resolve the complaint with their provider, they should raise it with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). Read our tip sheet on how to make an effective complaint for more useful tips.
Two faces hath online digital - it's important to pick the right one
You’d think that after working closely with this smaller business for more than 10 years that they would have grasped my core capabilities by now. But it wasn’t to be.
In what must have been our 50th or 60th regular meeting to discuss all things digital communications, came the glib comment to my suddenly faulty presentation.
“But you’re in IT Craig, you should be able to fix it.”
Not that there’s anything at all wrong being in IT - far from it. Most of us couldn’t function these days without it. It’s just a long way from what I – and a range of other digital professionals do. But it’s not an uncommon perception. My work is in Digital. So it’s techie, right? Only very, very partially.
Because the online digital world has two related but quite different core capabilities.
You’ve heard the pitches before – great design, easy to use, full reporting, search engine friendly etc. etc.
But does your investment yield a full blown, well presented, well written, search engine prominent and extensible (future-proof) website?
Or simply a bunch of tools that you have no hope of perfecting let alone preparing and optimising all important content for.
In most cases what you have been sold is the latter - not a complete website at all but a set of website building tools and maybe a nice design – all ready for you to do the hard bit – populating it with professional, well optimised content.
That’s right. These days, what used to be the most expensive bit, the ‘system’ and its functionality and the appearance, have now been developed to the point where they are relatively easy and affordable to provide.
What’s much harder, is coming up with professional, enticing content, arranging it so it’s easy to navigate and then ensuring search engines will come a knocking to scour your site content so as to ascertain just how pertinent it is to the keywords you want them to rank you highly for.
Leaving your personal details like your phone number, birth date, address and contacts publicly available on social media or websites could lead to a scammer stealing your identity and your cash! Don’t think this would ever happen to you? In this very helpful blog, Leonie Smith, The Cyber Safety Lady explains why it might and provides some timely advice.
A recent 7.30 Report on the ABC reported on two victims of this growing phone number porting scam; both victims caught up in this scam are actually Telco Unionists. If it can happen to them, it can happen to anyone. The victims' mobile phone numbers and identities were stolen and then used to break into their bank accounts. One victim's Facebook friends were used to go guarantor for new bank accounts. Porting phone numbers is a way scammers can assume someone’s identity. Once a scammer takes control of the victim’s phone, he or she may be able to access bank accounts that are linked to the phone number. Not only that, any two-step verification code security will be sent straight to the scammers phone via the stolen phone number after they have ported it across to a new provider.
Recently I helped a client who was the victim of the exact same scam. She had her mobile phone number ported over to a new telco by a scammer three times in order to hack into her bank accounts to steal money from her. Leonie discusses the porting scam and its causes in scammed while you sleep,on A Current Affair [note, Cynthia the victim in the clip is not Leonie's client]
Telecommunications outages happen from time to time. Recently (Feb 2-7) Telstra has reported outages due to a fire at one of its exchanges. This follows a number of outages last year (on both mobile and fixed networks) with services from iiNet, Virgin Mobile and Telstra.
Last year Telstra offered its mobile customers free data days as compensation. For the NBN/ADSL outage, Telstra has offered a $25 credit to consumers and a $50 credit to businesses who were offline for an extended period of time. This was applied automatically to customer accounts. Depending on your circumstances, a day of free mobile data or a $25/$50 credit may not be adequate compensation. If you or your business was affected and suffered losses due to an outage, you may be entitled to seek more compensation from your telco.
If you are NOT getting the number of hits to your domain that you are expecting, you should research and discover all that you can about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The Digital Ready blog site already contains two useful articles to get you started (Understanding the art of SEO; Beginners Guide to SEO) and in this third one we help you ensure you have set up your domain name correctly.
If you are not getting the traffic you expect, check to see if your domain has been set up to block robots. Visitors will not find you in an organic search using Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. if the site is setup to block ‘robots’ because this includes search engine robots (e.g. Googlebot) that index your site. These robots pick up the content inside your articles, rather than just look at the structure of your website. Robots may have been blocked at the time of set up for security reasons, but this can result in a lot of missed traffic - up to 80% in some cases.
Scam emails that claim to come from reputable organisations are being sent to harvest personal details or to infect your computer with malicious software such as ransomware. Based on previous experience, email-based scams may increase during the 2016 holiday season.
In recent months, scammers have circulated fake email messages with malicious content that claim to be from the Australian Tax Office, AGL and Telstra. They have also used global brands such as PayPal to trick victims into providing personal details.
In many cases, scammers target these emails around events or deadlines that make the scam seem legitimate – such as the due date for submitting your business activity statements.
Shortly before Christmas 2015, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued a warning about fake parcel deliveries that involved scammers taking advantage of the busy holiday season to send victims emails about ‘missed parcel deliveries’, purportedly from trusted services such as Australia Post or FedEx.
Or will it stay on a costly backburner?
A good five years ago the partners in my business noticed a shift in thinking when it came to customer and other data among smaller business. It seemed that suddenly there was an imperative to reduce the crazy data duplication and even manual handling of the terabytes of customer information within smaller business. This issue was costing SMEs billions as they continued to process customer data multiple times between the various sales, marketing, accounts and other departments.
On the other hand, those that were able to have their customer and other data seamlessly synchronise were on their way to productivity nirvana.
A big business mainstay
Larger business were already across this massively costly issue. No large organisation worth its salt would manage disparate stores of customer data or suffer the consequences of administration cost blowout. Quite simply, the less integrated data was, the greater the administration cost. And how. Multiple repositories of disparate data is enough to drive any reasonable savvy business person spare as they count the cost of so much duplication and potential error.
Administer it before it ruins your business!
I’ve now been working with smaller business on their digital communications requirements for nearly 20 years. Over that time it’s been really interesting to observe how widespread real technophobia (fear of all things technical) is and the lengths people will go to to avoid it.
Despite a technical solution offering considerable benefits to their businesses, many small business operators will do anything to avoid their lack of technical knowledge being exposed. It would be entertaining if it weren’t so sad for their business. Small business operators will become virtual acrobats in their attempts to avoid exposing their technical incompetence.
I’m certainly no psychologist but to me it appears that technology is the one area of their lives in which many feel completely out of control. It’s an area which otherwise very intelligent people aren’t able to grasp. While most other aspects of their lives are confidently managed and understood, technology, for many, elicits an almost panicked response. They feel like babes in the woods and, in truth, from a technical perspective, that’s what they are. As a result, many have deliberately continued age old communications practices which can take their organisations at least 3-4 times more labour (and hence cost) than it would to achieve the same task with simple digital solutions.
So if this sounds like ‘a friend of yours’, what are they to do about it?
Smartphones can chew through your data allowance without you realising it, specially if you are using your smart phone as a small business tool. This can be because data-hungry apps are left open or simply due to default settings on your phone. It could also be due to the way your telco counts your mobile data. For more information on this, look at ACCAN’s Megacharge project.
It can be very expensive if you go over your monthly data limit. No matter what type of phone you use, the number one rule is to track your data usage in your provider’s smartphone app or your account on your provider’s website. When checking your data usage, remember that this information may be up to 48 hours old. If you are close to going over your limit, you may have already actually gone over it and incurred extra charges.
Android and Apple smartphones have internal features that track data usage. These can be useful to identify which apps are using the most data. Consumers should not rely only on this internal data to track their usage as some consumers have noticed differences when comparing internal counters to data usage measured by their provider. Whenever possible, you should conserve mobile data by connecting your smartphone to your home or work Wi-Fi
The following are some useful tips to minimise Data usage:
The Sensis Social Media Report for 2016 states that 31% to 48% of SMBs, and 56% to 79% of large businesses in Australia already have a social media presence, but are they managing their platforms effectively? After working in this field since 2006 and teaching in this field these are my best tips for getting the most out of your social media profiles:
1. Strategy Development
Some business owners start to dabble in social media without a social media strategy. This means they are simply starting up platforms without clear objectives or a roadmap to get there. Often clients choose the wrong platforms or set up too many social media channels and do not have the time to service them. Having a strategy document is critical if you want to hit your targets and save time.
While strategy is a key element of success, knowing what tools to use will save you lots of time. You will be surprised to find out how easy it is to create professional looking content. Some of my favourite tools are Canva and Animoto for content production, Buffer to schedule your social media posts and Hemingway to refine your writing.
Computers have helped us with our work, but what have they done to our health? If you are using your computer on a regular basis, you may notice that you feel discomfort after sitting for long periods. Also, staring at the computer monitor can make you feel nauseous. You can actually avoid these risks by making certain adjustments on how you work. Here are some tips on how to take care of your health while working with a computer. This should be included in your efforts to make your workplace safer.
Take Care of your Eyes
In case you are not aware, there is a technical term for an ailment caused by long exposure to the computer monitor. Computer Vision Syndrome (CSV) is a temporary condition that has symptoms like:
- Blurred vision
- Neck pain
- Eye redness and irritation
- Double vision, and difficulty in refocusing the eyes.
How do customers find your website?
Many businesses make careful and deliberate efforts to get potential buyers to their website. They can include online ads, social campaigns, search engine optimisation, or writing interesting feature content. Other businesses don't. Their traffic is a byproduct of their other activities – things like word of mouth from happy customers, offline marketing, or good old fashioned networking.
However you're managing it – and whether you get a little traffic or a lot – nobody shows up by sheer accident.
Are you making the most of your opportunity to attract customers? That hinges on your copy; 'copy' is just business jargon for the words on your website or other marketing materials. Great website copy is the difference between getting the clicks and getting the sales.
There are two kinds of business owner who need to understand what makes great website copy.
“The Cloud” has become an easy way for small businesses to keep their records in a digital, portable way. Now, thanks to the heightened security of the cloud, financial information and tax records can be stored there too. Banks, accounting systems providers and even the Australian Taxation Office have joined the cloud revolution.
“The Cloud” is a catchword that seems to infer that data and information are now floating above our heads in tiny pieces, like Mike TV in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In reality, the cloud is a massive network of computers, housed in warehouses all over the world and accessed via the internet. Files can therefore be stored in a single place (actually in many places for redundancy purposes, but it looks like a single place to the user), and accessed from anywhere by multiple devices without the need for a large personal hard drive. And, according to experts, cloud storage security has dramatically improved in recent times. It is still wise however to make local backup copies for disaster recovery purposes.
We all know the Facebook landscape changed tremendously last year, negatively affecting Organic Reach for business pages. We saw many marketers talking about being creative with Facebook content and making connections with followers, but many small business owners are still confused as to what this means to them. What should they post to their pages?
Did you know that this 1st of July brings a whole raft of changes to the way small businesses operate? To help you prepare for these changes, we’re sharing with our Digital Ready community some important information put out recently by the NSW Business Chamber.
With the new financial year come compliance changes in workplace relations and taxes. The following are some important reminders that you as a small business owner need to be aware of this coming financial year (2016/2017):
The Australian Taxation Office has had a long and sometimes well-deserved reputation for being poor at information sharing. Happily, after extensive consultations with the community the ATO has launched some new and varied ways to learn about taxation and interact with their support services.
As a starting point, the Business Page of the ATO website is here: https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/. And to get the full rundown on what’s available visit: https://www.ato.gov.au/business/starting-your-own-business/supporting-your-small-business/
Small and medium businesses do not just need to prepare for medical and other emergencies in the workplace, they also need to prepare for unwanted events such as telco outages that can greatly affect daily business activities.
Telstra’s major mobile network outages during recent months remind us just how important it is to have systems in place to deal with failures and to seek the best possible small-business-aware services from your provider.
Last week, Optus announced that it had improved the experience for their small business consumers by offering more specialist team members and having a network of small business consumers.
ACCAN welcomes this announcement. These initiatives are a positive step in the right direction.
It’s a simple question, but finding the answer and figuring out how to get it can be surprisingly difficult, especially when running a small business. Understanding and implementing goals can help though.
Goal setting is a learned skill. It starts with the goal itself – the answer to the question posed above. This ambition is completely up to you, and can be about whatever you like - financial success, improved marketing, perhaps addressing a business weakness? A goal could also be connected to personal achievement, artistic success or a mixture of everything.
With the advent of broadband services, streaming and downloading video is now available to a majority of internet users.
Time was when even a short video took ages to load, but this is definitely not the case these days. YouTube is of course the pre-eminent platform for video; the statistics for uploaded video are staggering: 1 Billion users, 6 Billion hours of video watched per month, 300 hours per minute of video uploaded to YouTube.
A business plan is a written document that summarises the big picture of a business and explains the intricate details and decisions that make up the whole.
If you're thinking about building or rebuilding a website for your business or organisation there is VERY IMPORTANT thing you need to consider.
How does your website look on a Smartphone or Tablet?
“But why is that important?” Great question! Here is why:
Already, more people use the Internet through their Smartphones and Tablets than through their PCs.
Telstra’s major mobile network failures recently reminds us just how important it is to have systems in place to deal with failure! While major failures like this are usually rare, their three outages over recent weeks remind us they do happen and it can be difficult to get things working again straight away.
The opportunity of being able to fit travel in to their schedules or be away from their business for an extended amount of time often seems like an impossible dream especially if you belong to industries such as hospitality, or if you’re a small business owner and your business relies on you being there physically for it to run properly.
Securing your online presence helps protect Australia’s arts, recreation and education sectors. These businesses use a wide range of technologies and deal in sensitive data such as financial information, personal and private information, commercially sensitive data, and intellectual property (IP).
If you are bringing your business to the online space then you are going to need Terms and Conditions for your website. This is not an easy task and you should really seek professional and legal advice before putting something online. That being said, there are a number of things you should consider when putting together a draft.
SEO over the years has grown increasingly complicated and impossible to master. It is no wonder as to why this relatively new field has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.
But there is no need to panic! With a firm understanding of the basics of SEO you should be able to improve your website’s ranking substantially. Let’s look at some of the most basic ways you can do this on your website.
Ahhhhh, technology. It's a blessing when you have the right combinations and a curse when you don't. It's taken me a fair few years to get this combination working for me but now that I have it, I'd never go back.
With Social Media, statistics show that almost two thirds of Australians are on Facebook, but only 36 per cent of small businesses have a social media presence (Yellow Social Media Report, 2014).
According to the NAB Online Retail Sales Index, Australians spent approximately $16.7 billion on online retail in the 12 months to February 2015, an increase of 9% year on year. This figure is record-breaking within the Australian online retail space, showing a definite trend towards online spend as opposed to more traditional forms of retail, where sales have had very moderate growth of 4.7%.
Firstly a disclaimer, I am part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Indago Digital uses as much digital data as possible to drive results for our clients. Now that’s out of the way I’d like to give you an overview of how your personal information is used to track and influence your behaviour around the web.
On this blog we have talked a lot about capturing your audience’s contact information for the purpose of communicating and marketing to them.
However, you must not forget that with great power comes great responsibility.
Without any doubt, the easiest and most consistent way to get fans onto your Facebook page is through paid advertising. Many businesses avoid paid advertising as it can be quite expensive... but not if you do it right!
If you put in a bit of time and effort into optimizing your ads, your bill can be cut to a fraction of the regular cost.
Every business can benefit from good design. That is a fact.
Your business communicates with the world. It has a face in the form of a logo and it talks, not just verbally but also visually through vehicles such as flyers and brochures.
The end game of all marketing activity is to achieve results. Whether your aim is to grow your database, increase membership or sales of a specific product, create brand awareness or increase brand loyalty, it is important to choose and use the most effective marketing tool for your individual business needs.
Let’s cut straight to the chase. Advertising on social media is GOOD… but you must never forget that you do NOT own your audience on any social media platform.
As platforms such as Facebook have shown, if you want to advertise to your audience, you are going to have to pay for it.
Over 100 billion work emails are exchanged each day, but research has suggested that only around a quarter of those are actually essential.
With winter fast approaching, it is once again that stressful time of year where parents all over the country, rush to register their children for winter sports. Only a decade ago, clubs would be spending this time phoning around or mailing out letters to remind parents to submit their registration. However, the online revolution has provided attractive alternatives for organizations to streamline this process.
It’s never been easier before to build your own website. There are literally hundreds of online website builders that make it quick and easy to set up a website in a short amount of time. Doing It Yourself (DIY) can be a fruitful exercise but may require considerable time and patience and you may have to endure a few headaches along the way... so it is not for everyone to attempt.
In this day and age, every business needs a website. It doesn’t need to be high-tech or even look very good. At the end of the day you need an online presence because people DO and WILL search for you.
Here is where you have two options, you could build one yourself or you could find someone to build it for you.
So you’ve decided to listen to the resounding voice of the crowd telling you to get a website. Well, this is great news, as almost all businesses can benefit from having a dedicated website to help them promote their business and engage customers or clients.
I’ve been using Twitter since 2007, and over that time Twitter has been my top preference for social media use. I have been hired, interviewed and offered all sorts of professional opportunities through Twitter, much more so than LinkedIn or Facebook.
A blog is a frequently updated online journal used by individuals or businesses to communicate to their readers in the form of ‘entries’ or ‘posts.’ Blogs are a great way for your business or organization to communicate with the world and keep people up to date.
To the outside world parkrun is the facilitator of free, timed, weekly 5km running events at 100+ locations around the country and 500+ around the world. These events are inspired and organised by passionate teams of volunteers who simply want to make a difference to others in their community.
But behind the scenes parkrun has grown to become a sophisticated IT platform that enables these volunteer teams to go about their business in an efficient and simple manner and has enabled us to scale our operation dramatically in recent years.
How do you get people to like your Facebook page?
In fact, how do you get people to do anything at all?
You can beg, you can plead, you can roll on the floor and cry.
We have had a look at the 4th Australian Social Media Report generated by Sensis and were intrigued by some of the findings. "While in previous years, social media growth was driven by younger demographics, now the growth is being driven by older demographic groups. At the same time younger Australians are driving adoption of new, more visual platforms, such as Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat, as usage of their previous favourites, like Facebook, has become more mainstream."
You have just made a Facebook page for your business and you are ready to reach out to your audience. The problem is you don't have the faintest idea how. Today we are going to give you some great strategies and ideas to get your creative juices flowing, to start thinking about what it is your fans really want to see.
Our friends over at ACMA have put together a fantastic article on the first processes a business should take when considering moving to the online space. Their tips and research are an invaluable tool to any individuals considering making the transition to the online space.
Whether your small business is in the field of arts, recreation or education, you stand to benefit from cloud computing.
Small business owners who utilise a social media marketing strategy to grow their businesses are faced with many challenges and not many apparent answers. The struggle is how to use a social media marketing plan cheaply for the best results. Fear not! This article will show you ways to face this struggle head on.
The Internet has redefined the interactions and relationships between businesses and people. It has revolutionised how businesses start, operate and sustain themselves. You can grow your online business in some of the following ways:
Most of our business activities are now being carried out online. A whole new field of ecommerce has been growing by leaps and bounds each and every year as technology connects us closer than we had ever imagined it to be possible. The world has now become a global village that you can access with the click of a button and the swipe of a screen.