Hidden messages

Geek-speak obscures tech issues important to businesses

By Laura Haight

Algorithms, chip vulnerabilities, “viewable-only organic reach”, and “speculative execution side-channel attacks.” It’s geek-speak run amok and no one can blame you flicking past posts on Meltdown, Spectre, and Facebook News Feed’s technology changes, in favor of something – anything – else. But these two issues are important for small businesses. Here’s why:

Facebook falls back

Facebook has done it again. Announcing that it is once again changing its formulas that determine how much visibility any post will get “organically”, i.e. for free, Facebook is effectively significantly changing the social media marketing landscape.

Facebook has become a big part of most businesses marketing and advertising plans. Forty-one percent of small businesses and 84.7 percent of larger businesses (those with more than 100 employees) have Facebook pages.

Many smaller companies have built full-featured Facebook pages and skipped the idea of traditional websites. 

The new formulas will be a blow to businesses that have put most of their marketing eggs into the Facebook basket as they will give precedence to a users’ friends and family in their news feed; downgrading posts from companies, brands, and media. 

What’s a business to do? Facebook rewards those who sing along with the rest of the band. 

  • Cut the clickbait. Businesses that use provocative headlines and “guess-what!” summaries are going to be on Facebook’s proverbial cutting-room floor. Think about the headlines in grocery store tabloids. Provide informative content with accurate summaries.
  • Drop the hyperbole. Have you noticed how often you use an exclamation point these days? I do it far more than I even realized. (This is great! Thank you for being a great client! Congratulations!!). Businesses that tout extreme and hyperbolic claims with effusive language and overblown promises will also get no love from Facebook. 
  • Be clear and concise. Facebook gets a lot of feedback from users and they have made clear that they are sick of misleading posts and claims. Just like with newspapers, most readers make a decision on what to read by the headline. If your headline oversells, Facebook promises “decreased post distribution.”
  • Learn about targeting. The good news for businesses is that paid Facebook advertising is fairly reasonable. The key is identifying the right audience and understanding your goals with social media posts. That sounds like a no-brainer, right? But how many companies don’t even look at their Facebook analytics each month? Even a small business and, occasionally, a nonprofit, can spend $50 to boost a post to gain exposure or donations.
  • Set expectations. If you launched a product and no one bought it, would you keep selling it? Probably not. Same question for social media. You invest time and effort into feeding the social media machine, but do you know which posts work and which posts don’t? Which posts drew readers to your website? Which posts eventually resulted in a sale? Are you re-evaluating what works and re-aligning your posts accordingly? Facebook has fairly deep analytics; read them. Really.

There are still plenty of opportunities in Facebook’s vast global community, but we’re going to have to work smarter. 

Meltdown and Spectre

The bad news: These two flaws in the designs of computer chips are not dangerous natively and have, in fact, been in our computers since 1995. But they are vulnerable to hacking attacks. Most concerning is the breadth of the problem. Chips in nearly every PC, server, smartphone, and Mac contain these flaws and require patching. 

The good news: Patches and fixes are being released at a fever pace. As a business exec, ensuring that all your network gear has been patched is critical. That’s more than just PCs. Network switches, routers, and firewalls may have vulnerabilities that need to be patched. Even small businesses and nonprofits with just a few computers connected to a wireless router may be harboring this open door. Netgear, one of the largest providers of consumer/small business network gear, is preparing release of updates to a number of devices. As is Cisco.

These updates do not just happen; they may require active intervention by you or your IT provider. Talk to your IT staff or provider about identifying a list of all potentially vulnerable computing equipment in your business/nonprofit, and tracking its update status. After Heartbleed, the 2014 bug that affected nearly every website, many companies were breached because they did not move quickly to install the fixes.

That’s an unforced error - and a potentially costly one. 

Partner risks: But even if you are following a diligent patching process, it may not be enough. In our cloud-driven environment, businesses are not in total control of their own security. We are dependent on others doing the right things as well, no matter how good we are. That’s a lesson we should have learned with Heartbleed. But it's even more true today. Third-party vendors have been the catalyst for several big hacks in the recent years. They would include: MSPs, cloud-based service providers, payroll and HR companies, accountants, banks, CRM systems, any software delivered as a service including design programs, and application suites, to name a few. 

Third-party vendors often have trusted relationships with your systems, so vetting their security practices and policies is just as important as maintaining your own. Download this 40-question guide to ask vendors before giving them the keys to your business security.