5 Ways to Manage Your Teen’s Technology

Do your kids have their own gadgets — smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc. ?

Are you concerned about how the may be using them?

Generally, kids are pretty good about what they do online. You’ve raised them well and they keep those lessons with them. But digital footprints and online citizenship are a different kind of independence, and come with new lessons.

I had the chance to review a new book by Tony Anscombe, One Parent to Another. Tony is the Senior Security Evangelist at AVG Technologies.

I’m going to share five online safety tips Tony covers in his book, but I strongly suggest you download a copy for yourself as these tips just scratch the surface of the information shared in the book. It’s a very quick read — only 75 pages — but it’s packed with information. I was reminded about a few things I need to re-visit with my own teens.

1: Check Device Settings

I usually only think of phones, tablets, and laptops as my connected technology. Can you think of any others? When I looked over the list in the book I was surprised at how many items we have, but I don’t think of as connected.

Technology is so ubiquitous in our lives we forget we’re even using it. If I ask you what “smart” devices you use, would you include these?

  • cameras
  • home phones
  • DVD players
  • gaming consoles
  • cars
  • alarm systems
  • appliances — yep, even new models of refrigerators are connected!

Each device is connected to the internet — and probably each other. When you share anything from those devices, any encoded information (like geotagging) is included in the transfer. So if you take a picture with your phone or even a “regular” camera, but you don’t have geotagging turned off, it’s very easy for others to determine where the picture was taken, and possibly find their way to you.

Be sure you’ve read the manual for each device and have studied and adjusted the settings to fit your needs. Talk to your teens about why the setting are configured as they are and why they should not change them.

2. Create Better Passwords

Passwords are the weak link. The one thing that should to be your first line of defense to protect you is often the least effective. Too many people choose simplicity over safety by using passwords like 1234567 or password or something based on your interests that could be easily guessed.

“Automated password cracker software has the ability to trace an individual’s pubic web activity and make associations, and ultimately compromise passwords relatively quickly.”

Tony suggests using upper and lower case letters, numbers, special characters (e.g., @ * ^) to create a passphrase code. For example, using this method you could create the phrase D@n(1n6qu3En (or “dancing queen”).

3. Know Your Scams

Sometimes it’s tempting to click on links. They seem to come from legitimate sources, but there’s a nagging feeling that they’re not.

It can be very hard to determine what’s a legitimate request and what’s not. A scam isn’t always a link on a social media platform, it’s very often a link in an email. Those emails may look very convincing and appear to be from a trusted company like PayPal or Amazon — but they’re actually a scam called “phishing.”

“…’Phishing’ lures you to present personal information under false pretenses…[A] phishing email may state that there’s an issue with your account and that [they] need you to send your password to correct it.”

If that email asks you to update your information and provides a link, beware. That link will likely take you a look-alike page. When you log in with your username and password, the phishers now have your information.

For more important information about phishing (and how to safely use email), read Chapter 3 of Tony’s book. This chapter was my favorite because it had so many useful explanations and tips. I’m pretty tech savvy, but after reading Chapter 3 I realized I hadn’t talked to my kids about phishing since they became teens!

4. Watch the Apps

Keep an eye on which apps your teens are downloading, and find out how those apps are used.

Snapchat is a popular app because you can take a picture, then it disappears after 15 seconds or so — it’s only seen by people you send it to and it isn’t stored on your phone. Teens think this is a great way to get around apps like Instagram (where photos are public and kept long-term unless you delete them) and texting (where the pictures live on your phone until you delete them). A lot of teens are using Snapchat to sext, thinking the pictures are being automatically deleted.

They were wrong. Nothing dies on the internet. Once something is published it has a digital footprint. Not only is that picture still stored somewhere, but teens are pretty quick on the draw and can take a screenshot before the image goes away.

5. Know Your Boundaries – And Their Consequences

Talk with your teens about what they’re sharing, who they’re sharing it with, and why they’re sharing it. Most of the time kids aren’t using their tech for nefarious reasons. They’re just connecting with their friends or playing games.

But sometimes it’s too easy to forget that there is a physical person on the other side of the screen — it’s easy to overshare, it’s easy to make a poor judgment call (I know I did when I was a teen!), and it’s easy to lash out at or make fun of someone you dislike.

When I grew up in the 80s and 90s, all of those things — oversharing, poor judgment, and teasing — were no more accepted than they are today. The difference is that we may have had to endure a few weeks of teasing or we would apologize and move forward, but eventually the incident was forgotten.

Since the advent of smartphones the idea that anything will be forgotten is, unfortunately, laughable. Everything you do, share, and say can (and most likely will) be recorded or screenshot. You can delete it, but as I’ve mentioned, nothing is ever really gone. And certainly other teens delight in taking screenshots that will be passed around.

Apps To Help You Help Them

In September I was fortunate enough to visit with the AVG team about the strides they’re making to help parents and teens protect themselves online. AVG has two particulary useful apps to help you set online expectations and boundaries for your children (whether they’re teens yet or not). I’ve listed them below and taken the descriptions directly from the iTunes store so as not to distort what you’ll get from the apps.

5 Ways to Manage Your Teen's Technology -- AVG Family Safety AppAVG Family Safety

A free, secure, family-friendly web browser, which helps protect your children from inappropriate websites, while also keeping your whole family safe from scam, fraud, phishing, and potentially malicious online content. This app includes AVG’s Do Not Track to help you identify sites that are collecting data on your and your online habits.

5 Ways to Manage Your Teen's Technology -- AVG Privacy Fix AppAVG Privacy Fix

AVG Privacy Fix is the simple way to manage your online privacy — one dashboard that shows you quickly and easily what you’re sharing on Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn and with one simple click, take you to settings where you can fix it. Get alerted to privacy risks as you visit sites and know when policies change, and control website tracking.

I’ve been using Privacy Fix since September. It’s installed on each phone in the house and we check our status every month. The first time you use it, you’ll be surprised at all the applications you’ve allowed to have access to your profiles! It’s a bit of work to get everything disconnected, but it’s worth it. And once that’s done, you can just maintain those settings by checking every few weeks and cleaning up as needed.

How are you talking with your teens about technology? Do you monitor their accounts or give them more autonomy? Tell me in the comments! I’m interested in how different families handle this situation.

AVG Technologies provides products and solutions that protect you from malware and data loss. AVG sent me a copy of One Parent to Another — Managing Technology and Your Teen and asked me to review it. I felt it was very relevant to you, my audience, and agreed. I was not paid to write or share this post.

Why Your Brand Needs to Hire a Community Manager Now

If you’re looking to use social media to grow your brand’s presence you have probably heard of online community management, but you may not be sure if you need to hire a community manager for your business. After all, you take care of updating your Facebook page and Twitter account, what else do you really need?

A common misconception is that community managers do little more than Tweet out links for the brand. If this is the case for you, please join me now as I take a look at what community managers really do, and how they benefit the brand.

Community Management isn’t Just Twitter

If someone is trying to sell you on the idea of hiring him to manage a Twitter account, he’s not a community manager. He’s a person who tweets on behalf of others. Community management is a strategic role more than anything else. Most community managers work closely with the marketing team, content team, advertising team and PR team to plan campaigns and drive sales. Your community manager will help you to:

  • Grow your fan and follower base. I don’t care what anyone tells you, very few brands start a Facebook page or create a Twitter presence and have one million fans overnight. Very few brands even reach tens of thousands of fans. Growing your numbers and keeping your community interested is something a community manager is trained to do. If you want your numbers to seriously grow, you’ll need to call in a professional.
  • Understand who it is who makes up your community. No one knows the people using your brand better than your community manager. He is the one who talks to them every day, researches their demographics and deconstructs their feedback.
  • Plan an editorial calendar for your social media accounts. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instragram, the newsletter, and any other platform your brand uses to produce content also takes careful planning. The last thing you want is to share the same message across all social networks. Your community manager will roll out a strategy for best reaching each individual community.
  • Determine and implement the content that works best for your community. Many community managers help the marketing team with a content strategy if no content team is in place.
  • Create brand awareness. A heavy online presence means better brand awareness. When people see your brand name often they’ll feel as if they can trust it, even if your product or service isn’t something they used before. Brand recognition means when a community member or potential customer needed a product or service similar to yours, they’ll at least look into what you have to offer because your name is familiar to them.
  • Analyze numbers and demographics. Your community manager will provide deep analysis and demographics for all your social media platforms, and help you to use what you learned to best reach the people in your community (and attract new community members).

The above is a small sampling of a community manager’s tasks. It’s a full time job, one that takes careful planning and implementation. It’s not Twitter and it’s not Facebook, but both are incorporated into the bigger picture.

Your Customers Will Appreciate Knowing One Person They Can Trust

When you have a regular community manager who is someone people can count on, she’ll be the go-to person for questions, feedback, complaints and concerns. He or she will also be the face and voice of the brand. Your customers and community members will feel more secure knowing there is someone online who has their back. When people trust the brand they not only use the brand, they recommend it to others as well. Which brings us to…

“Community” Can Be Another Word for “Brand Advocate”

Customers buy. That’s great, but very few customers become so enamored of the brand that they rave about it online or to their friends and family. However, if you grow an awesome community online, you also help to create passionate brand advocates. Because you’re giving folks an outlet to discuss the brand, giving them a place to offer feedback, and having a regular conversation with them, the folks who are using your product or service become more than customers, they become community. When that happens, they spend more time online with your brand and share news and information about your brand with others.

A Social Media Account Doesn’t Guarantee a Personal Connection

Not to keep harping on this trust thing, but establishing a personal connection makes a big difference. Having a Twitter account doesn’t mean you made a personal connection with your community. It simply means you have a Twitter account. It’s the person behind the accounts that turns a Tweet into an engaging conversation. You won’t establish community by randomly tweeting out sales come ons or blog posts, and you certainly won’t establish community if no one is responding to people who are reaching out to you online. Having a regular presence, someone your community knows by name, makes all the difference in the world.

Community Managers Work Offline Too

What about the people who aren’t into social media, how do you make them a part of your community? How do you reach the people who don’t follow you on Facebook or Twitter?

Community management is an offline gig as well. Your community manager will help you to reach people at networking events, parties, meetups, tweetups and conferences. If he or she isn’t attending on your behalf, he or she will help you to plan the best event possible. Since she has her finger on the pulse of the community she can help you determine the best methods for in-person meetings.

Getting Started With Instagram

Instagram has 150 million users. That’s more daily mobile users than Twitter. Are you ready to tap into that audience? Instagram can be a powerful marketing tool because your community loves to get a sneak peek into your company’s “real” every day. Why not give them that with pictures? For example, you can

  • Show your personal side. If you’re a blogger, you’re likely building your community based on sharing you. Only you can determine the level of sharing that’s appropriate, of course. Depending on your type of blog, Instagram is a great way to let your readers have a glimpse of what’s interesting or important to you. That can mean anything; it doesn’t have to be pictures of your family.
  • Report your company news. Did you get a new shipment in? Do you have a daily special? Or maybe you have an event coming up or just had one? Bring your community into the fold with pictures.
  • Share behind-the-scenes happenings. If an impromptu battle of the bands breaks out in the office (or living room), you definitely want to share that. But even mundane stuff like creating an end-of-month stats report can be interesting to see — even if it’s just to reinforce that even the fun offices have work to get done. You’re relating to your community and letting them become familiar with you and your employees.

How Do I Get Started With Instagram?

First you need to download the app for your smartphone (go to your smartphone’s application store). Once you’ve installed the app, follow the instructions for creating an account:

1. Click the Register button. A new screen appears.
2. Type the Instragram username and password you’d like. Or, you can click Use Your Facebook Info to sign up that way.

When you sign up with Facebook, you’ll be asked to allow the Instagram app to have access to your account. You need to allow this so Instagram can create your account and allow you to post photos to your Facebook Timeline.

Note this little menu next to Who Can See Posts From This App on Facebook.

You can click that and see a full menu. From here you can choose who can see things you update to Facebook from Instagram. You can set it to Public (everyone can see), Friends (only people you’re connected with), or Only Me (if you don’t want anyone else to see your photos on Facebook). It’s important to note that not every picture you take will be sent to Facebook. I’ll explain how that works in a little bit. Let’s get back to registering your account.
3. Click the Done button in the top right corner.

Ok! Let’s get started! Now that you have an account, let’s talk about how Instagram works. When you fire up Instagram, you’re taken to your main Instagram feed and you see five navigation icons at the bottom of the screen:

  • Home: This is your where you’ll see the pictures from people you follow.
  • Search: Use this page to search users or hashtags (#keyword).
  • Camera: You can take a new photo or use an existing photo from your camera roll.
  • Likes: A list of people that have liked your photos. This can be a good place to find new people to follow.
  • Profile: Establish your settings, share settings, and see the photos you’ve uploaded.

When you’re ready to take a picture and post it, you’ll click the center camera button to take a picture. If you want to use a picture from your camera roll, click the double squares icon on the camera page.

Instagram Tip: Bright and sharp photos have the most engagement, so keep that in mind as you’re deciding what to share.

After you’ve taken a photo, Spice It Up! You can

  • Add one of the 17 filters to your content.
  • Use the bright icon to enhance the image.
  • Use the frame tool (only available on some filters).
  • Use the blur tool. You can choose either the round or horizontal blue, depending on what you want to do. You can even change the size of the focused or blurred part of the photo.

When you’re done editing your photo, click the green checkmark. A new screen comes up where you can write a caption about your photo, add it to your photo map, and share it to your other social networks. When everything’s in place, click the green Share button at the top of the screen and your photo shows up in the Instragram stream!

Instagram Tips For Business

  • When you create a caption, you can tag people if you know their Instagram username. Just type @username and they’ll get a notification that you tagged them. Of course, you don’t want to tag people unless they’re actually in the photo or somehow related to it. You wouldn’t tag people just to get them to look at your stuff — that’s spammy and people don’t like it.
  • If someone comments on your photo and you want to respond, you can touch and hold the username and a new screen appears with that username already tagged and ready for your new comment.
  • Establish a basic hashtag that everyone can use when they post. A hashtag is a number sign (#) with a keyword or phrase attached to it (#Summit). Used consistently, people will start to associate that hashtag with your business and may start using it themselves for relevant photos.
  • Be sure your Instagram profile shares your Facebook page, website, or online store address.
  • If you’re set up on Foursquare, integrate that with Instagram and use the location tagging feature so people will know where the store is.
  • Create a page on your website with Instagram so you can pull the photos in as you take them. That allows you to do all sorts of things with search, hashtags, contests/giveaways on your website.
  • Check out statigr.am and set up an account. You’ll be able to see basic stats and analytics; find the best times to post; analyze which photos are most popular; add follow buttons to your website and blog; break down how your hashtags are being used & compare them to the most popular hashtags on Instagram; check out the engagement you’re getting on photos; and use the contest toolkit. That’s a lot of bang for your buck — especially since statigr.am is FREE!

Do you have a favorite Instagram tool or tip? Tell us in the comments!

12 Ways to Use Google+ Hangouts for Business

12 Ways to Use Google+ Hangouts for BusinessMention Google+ in a crowd of social media enthusiasts and you’ll receive a mixed bag of responses. Most will crack jokes and comment about a virtual wasteland, but after the laughter dies down, a few die hard holdouts will tell you why Google+ is still worthy of your time. For example, Google+ Hangouts have changed the way many people socialize and do business online.

Hangouts enable you to have a video chat with at least one person, but potentially as many as you like, and savvy people are using them in a variety of ways.

Have you ever wanted to interview experts? Host a webinar? Chat with your entire family on video at once? The Google+ Hangout feature allows you to do all that and more.

There is no one so technically challenged he can’t host a Hangout on Google+. If you have a webcam, you’re in. The process is simple and intuitive and you can make your hangout as public or private as you want. You can even create a Hangout On Air if you want to invite many people to view your hangout which automatically records to YouTube so you can share the video of your hangout on your blog, website, Facebook and other platforms.

Hangouts don’t have to be random, general live chats, either. Use them to:

  1. Host webinars: Because the Hangout interface allows you to upload documents and share your screen, Google+ is a terrific alternative to pricier webinar services. The Hangout on Air option enables you to invite as many people as you’d like to view the webinar and you can even allow for a Q&A afterwards. Hangouts on Air also record straight to your YouTube account so you can share the video on your blog, website, Facebook and other platforms. The best part is that it’s free to use which is especially helpful for those who have something to share but don’t have the budget for a pricier webinar option.
  2. Host interviews with authors and experts: Hangouts are perfect for the one on one. You can host an interview with an expert and invite your community, or record it privately to share later. When you use video for interviews as opposed to email interviews both your community gets a better idea of the interview subject’s emotion and enthusiasm. For live hangouts you can also encourage the audience to ask questions and interact with both host and interview subject.
  3. Run demonstrations of products and services: Hangouts give you a platform to demo your products and services to interested parties, in a private or public setting. With live demos there are no smoke or mirrors, and no mishaps to hide, plus you can answer questions as you go along.
  4. Entertain: Host concerts, comedy routines, magic shows and more. Not everything has to be business.
  5. Have a book discussion: Grow your community by hosting a book club. You can start out with a smaller hangout and bring it to a Hangout on Air if it grows. The coolest part is that you can invite the current book’s author to join you each time, something you can’t usually do with a neighborhood book club. Not saying he or she will show up, but you never know.
  6. Run a focus group: Rather than flying in a group of bloggers or consumers to discuss the pros and cons of your product or service, invite them to take part in an online focus group using hangouts. You can have a real time online discussion without having to worry about hotel stays and airline tickets.
  7. Host client meetings: Working from home? Can’t take time away from the office to commute to a meeting? Using a private hangout allows you to have your meeting via video and the only thing missing is the complimentary coffee and donuts. Share documents, present slides and even record the hangout so you can refer to your discussion if needed..
  8. Host staff meetings: Hangouts are perfect for telecommuters and brands with staff members scattered around the country. Video is way more personal than conference calls and hopefully you can cover more ground in less time.
  9. Crowdsource: Opening up a hangout to friends, fans and followers to ask questions about product development is a perfect use for Google+ Hangouts.
  10. Show the human side of your brand: Hangouts enable you to report from the office. You can show off the conference room, bring your community to a staff luncheon, and allow them to tour the office. Using hangouts to allow a peek into the inner workings of your brand make your customers and community members feel as if they’re part of the brand and shows people there are real, actual humans working for you.
  11. Host a brainstorming or mastermind session: Get together with your peers and share ideas or brainstorm a new business. Some of the best business ideas are born out of masterminding sessions, and now you don’t have to travel to a separate location to get one together.
  12. Host a coaching session: If your job is to coach, you’ll find Google+ Hangouts to be a great time and money saver. You don’t have to travel cross town or use up your minutes to coach. Not when you can do it via video. As hangouts allow you to talk with several people at once,, you can even do group coaching or motivational sessions.

Google+ Hangouts have amazing potential. All you need is a webcam and a WiFi connection and you can take your business to new heights. Google+ is free, intuitive and available to anyone with a Google account.

What are YOU using Hangouts for?

3 Reasons Your Facebook Brand Page Looks Like a Ghost Town

3 Reasons Your Facebook Brand Page Looks Like a Ghost TownStarting a Facebook brand page is a good strategy for any business. If maintained properly, Facebook marketing can be an excellent tool and a terrific way to reach your customers. This platform requires daily care, however. It’s not enough to put up a page and leave it. Maintaining a Facebook page and making the most out of the interaction between your brand and your community take a bit of effort. Very few pages yield thousands of followers in the first few weeks and it takes lots of planning and outreach to reach this point.

If your Facebook brand page resembles a ghost town more than it does an active community, there are some steps you can take to bring folks in and encourage them to be active participants. So why is your Facebook page a ghost town?

1. No one knows where to find you

If your signage, brochures, advertisements, or other offline or online promotional material says “Like us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter” with very little else, it’s no wonder you don’t have any fans, friends or followers. People won’t know where to find you unless you tell them, and very few people will take the time to search. You have to do the work for people and give them something to go on. Under “Like us on Facebook,” include /YourPageName and under “Follow us on Twitter” include @your name. You don’t have to include the entire URL but do make it easy for everyone to find you.

2. You’re not giving anyone an opportunity to respond

Very few Facebook pages do well on their own. If you’re not seeing much of a response to your posts and updates it could be that you’re not inviting anyone to participate. You may think that just by posting something you’ll see interaction, but the truth is people like to be asked.

When you make a statement, that’s exactly what people see. They don’t see you asking a question or inviting conversation. Facebook updates need to be open ended and there has to be a specific action requested if you want a response. Go ahead and ask for Likes or Shares, but also ask for comments. If you do make a statement try ending with “would you agree?” or “what are your thoughts?” and see if it makes a difference. When you let your community know their opinions matter, they’re going to weigh in.

3. You’re not giving anyone any reason to share or talk about you

Have you ever noticed some Facebook pages receive hundreds of Likes or Shares on everything they post? It’s not only because a high fan count. The truth is, brands that have the most Shares post content worth sharing. Nothing is done off the cuff or by accident. They take time to strategize and plan every image, video, or comment. What they post on Facebook is posted for a reason, and that reason is to get a reaction so others will comment, share and Like. When their communities take action those actions show up in their newsfeeds encouraging their friends and family to also join in.

Try sharing images, videos and calls to action. Content can be humorous, poignant or share tips and how to’s, as long as it’s relevant to your brand. Don’t forget to include calls to action (CTA) inviting people to weight in, Like if they agree or share if they think it’s something everyone should know.

No one likes to be part of a one sided conversation

The word “engage” is the subject of many jokes lately and most social media professionals are doing their best to avoid it. However, if you want people to participate on your Facebook brand page, you have to be engaging. You can’t just post content and hope people show up. If your brand is absent, your community will be absent too.