The Grinch Goes Digital

(We'll cover 12 ways online scammers can steal from you this Christmas.)


By Carl Weiss
Courtesy of  commons.wikimedia.org

TIS the season… to be scammed by online scammers who are out to steal your holiday cheer.  Every year as online commerce grows, so do online scams.  Today’s cybercriminals are going to try to entice you into giving them your hard earned cash through a number of ever more imaginative scams.  In today’s blog, I will endeavor to give you a leg up on the top 12 ways to avoid getting Grinched this holiday season.

Grinch #1: Offers That are Too Good to be True

iPads for only $50.  Laptops for $100.  While supplies last.  We’ve all seen these offers online.  Hot ticket products for way less than retail.  Offers that sound too good to be true, right?  That’s because they are.  For every etailer that sells legitimate items, there are thousands of cybercriminals who are out to rip you off.  And why not, since it takes only a few hours to create a website that is capable of processing orders.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t legitimate online businesses that sell items below wholesale.  If you want to get the lowdown on how low prices can go, then you need to scope out eBay and Amazon to determine a realistic price for any item you intend to buy.  If an etailer is offering a price below what can be found on major discount portals, odds are you are being set up for a scam. 

Another thing, even if the offer seems to originate from a major retailer, that doesn’t mean you can’t be duped.  Scammers can create a clone of a legitimate site that is used to grab your credit card information.  I was almost duped by a clone of the Go daddy site recently, when I received an email telling me that my hosting would be terminated if I did not respond.  The only thing that saved me from getting burned was picking up the phone and calling Go daddy.  Only then did I learn that this was a phishing scam.

Bottom line, if you are unsure of the validity of an offer or inquiry, the best course is not to reply online, but to call the party in question.

Grinch #2: Your Shipment is Stuck in Transit
 
Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org
This online scam picks up where Grinch #1 left off.  In this con game, you will receive an email informing you that your shipment is stuck in transit.  Clicking on the link will bring you to a convincing clone of a major shipping site, such as FedEx, UPS or USPS.  You will then be asked to provide a nominal payment to insure delivery.  Don’t you believe it.  The only thing that will happen is that your credit card information will be sold to the highest bidders.  Just as with the Offer Too Good to be True scam, this flim-flam relies on your willingness to do business online with what seems to be a recognizable company.  As with Grinch #1, when it doubt sort it out by calling the shipper.



Grinch #3: Fake Charities

In this season of giving, you want to make sure that any charitable contribution is going to a legitimate charity.  One of the most profitable scams online today is to either set up a bogus charity, or clone the website of a legitimate charity only to solicit contributions that wind up in the scammers pocket.  So prevalent has this kind of online scam become that the Attorney General in every state in the union has set aside a portion of their website to report on online charity fraud.
Courtesy of  keith-quintanilla.deviantart.com

Grinch #4: You Could Be a Winner!

Unlike the first three Grinch’s who are interested in acquiring your credit card number, fake contests and surveys are more interested in glomming your personal information.  With enough info, these scammers don’t need your credit card number.  They will be able to acquire new credit cards, generate a refund from the IRS, or even take out a loan in your name.

Grinch #5: Free Games

Who doesn’t like something for nothing?  Freeware has been around since the birth of the Internet.  The problem is that today, for every legitimate freeware or shareware offer, there are a hundred malicious sites that will either rifle your personal information, deliver malware as soon as you download the software, or hijack your computer outright.  While the con extends to software of all stripes, free-to-play (F2P) games are particularly insidious, since they target youngsters who may or may not have their own devices.  If your child uses your laptop, tablet or smartphone to entertain themselves, it could be you who winds up having a game run on them.  Not only can spyware or malware be part and parcel of any F2P game download, but most companies that produce them only offer a small portion of the game to be played for free.  Then they entice the player to take the game to the next level (or eliminate incredibly intrusive advertising), which costs real money.  Some parents have been shocked to find charges for hundreds of dollars on their credit cards that were created when their kids played supposedly free games on their devices. More info is available at the gameindustry.com gamer-blog.

Grinch #6: Gift Card & Coupon Scams

According to the National Retail Federation, gift cards have been the most requested holiday gift for nearly the past decade.  This year alone, American consumers are expected to spend $26 billion on gift cards alone.  Needless to say, cybercriminals have their greedy little hands in the cookie jar.

Courtesy of  pixabay.com
While there are many legitimate sites that sell gift cards, it should come as no surprise that bogus sites selling cards that are virtually worthless.  Don’t be fooled by come on ads that promise discounted cards.  Also, be aware that cards purchased at major retailers can be set to rip you off if you grab them from the rack. 

Here is something I learned on Yahoo Finance“A lot of stores make it easy for you to buy gift cards. They have giant racks containing dozens of cards in their center aisle or near the registers. Unfortunately, they are also making it easy for thieves to steal from you. Most cards today have a scratch-off area on the back that contains a PIN or other number needed to redeem the card. Thieves scratch it off, write down the number and then call the toll-free number regularly while waiting for the card to be purchased and activated. Once it is, they drain the card’s balance. Protect yourself by double-checking the back of the card for any signs of tampering before buying.” 

You also need to be leery about accepting online coupons, refunds or rebates, especially if you receive word of them via email or text message.  Phishing can take many forms and it’s up to you to throw these phish back. 

Grinch #7: Free Wi-Fi Can Cost You BIG

Another way for cyber thieves to reel you in is via in-store Wi-Fi networks.  If you are one of those people who likes to prowl stores with smartphone in hand, using your device to comparison shop, you need to know that if your data connection is blocked inside a big box store, using the store’s Wi-Fi is one of the quickest way for thieves to compromise your phone’s security.

"People may want to log on to their Best Buy or Amazon accounts to check prices, but open Wi-Fi is probably the least secure place to do that," says Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. “If you're tech-savvy enough to use VPN software — short for "virtual private network," a technique for shutting would-be eavesdroppers out of your connection — on your phone, then free Wi-Fi is safe so long as you have the VPN on. For most people, though, it's simply best to stick to your cellular connection.”

Grinch #8: Phishing Scams Looking to Reel You In

Courtesy of  commons.wikimedia.org
The holiday shopping season is like open season for phishing scams.  Virtually every offer that you receive via email and/or text message during the period leading up to the New Year has to be taken with a grain of salt.  Even notices purportedly coming from a friend who informs you, “You should see the deal I just got on a new XYX product” should be regarded with suspicion.  More importantly, never ever click on the link that comes at the end of the message.  Nine times out of ten, your friend’s email was compromised and the link leads to Malware Central.  If you receive a message with a link, always call your friend or family member to ask them if they sent the message.  If they reply “No”, then you need to tell them that their email has been hacked.  This means they need to call their email provider and they need to send out an email to everyone they know telling them NOT to click on any links sent from the compromised account.

Grinch #9:  Ecards with a Side of Malware

Electronic greeting cards, otherwise known as ecards are another popular item during the holidays.  Unlike traditional greeting cards, ecards use audio or even animation to entertain the recipient.  Moreover, they are easier and cheaper to send out to family and friends since they don’t require you to purchase stamps to send them on their way.  While legitimate purveyors of ecards such as JibJab.com abound, you need to be aware of the fact that cybercriminals have jumped on the ecard bandwagon.

This isn’t so much of a problem when it comes to sending ecards.  The danger lies in ecards sent your way.   A recent post on scambusters.org points out that:

“A legitimate-looking ecard, once clicked or downloaded might actually contain spyware, spam or a computer virus.  Your computer may then start displaying obscene images, barrage you with pop-up ads, launch adult websites, or start sending bogus ecards to those in your address book that appear to come from you”. 

Talk about putting a damper on your friend’s holiday cheer!
Courtesy of  www.flickr.com

Grinch #10: Are Your Credit Cards Naughty or Nice

If you do make purchases online, you need to keep a weather eye on your credit card statement.  This is easy enough to do online.  The reason you should keep an eye on your account activity is due to the fact that if your card information is compromised, suddenly you could find hundreds or even thousands of dollars in bogus purchases being made without your knowledge.  If you use a debit card to make purchases and thieves gain access to it, then it could be game, set and match for your bank account.  My advice is that you should never use your debit card to make holiday purchases, and for goodness sake spend a few dollars to purchase theft protection, such as that offered by companies like LifeLock.  Your wallet will thank you.

Grinch #11:  Work at Home Scams Designed to Work You Over

Everyone knows that during the holiday season businesses large and small are looking for extra help.  Criminals use the lure of making a little extra money work for them like Santa’s elves by phishing for people via work at home scams.  These cons start at the recruitment by dangling a position, then requiring the applicant to provide everything from a resume to social security number, all of which can be sold on the dark web.  Then to cap it off, the applicant is offered a position, at which time they are asked to provide their bank account number.  (You want to get PAID, don’t you?)  To cap it off, now that you’ve given crooks the keys to the vault, many of them will then require the hiree to accept an initial deposit, part of which they are then told to transfer to another account.  The FBI’s own site reports that this scam is routinely used to dupe college students, who are in essence committing a crime themselves.

“The funds the student receives and is directed elsewhere have been stolen by cyber criminals. Participating in the scam is a crime and could lead to the student’s bank account being closed due to fraudulent activity or federal charges.”


Grinch #12: IoT - The Gift That Keeps on Taking (Internet of Things)
Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

If it weren’t bad enough that criminal elements are targeting everyone from us to our kids during the holiday season, it’s now likely that even our appliances can be turned into unwitting accomplices.  In this web-enabled world of ours, everything from our Smart TV, to refrigerators, security systems, nannycams, home healthcare devices, home Wi-Fi networks, and a host of other appliances and wearables that fall under the Internet of Things (IoT), are now vulnerable to cyberattack.  Once penetrated, these devices can give a hacker access to other devices and networks in your home and/or office.  This can then lead to everything from rifling your personal or medical information, to email spam attacks, denial of service attacks, access to cameras in your home and/or office, which could then lead to cyber blackmail.

Don’t think it can happen to you?  Think again.  Many IoT devices have little or no cybersecurity, or they have default passwords that even a child can crack.  So pervasive has cyber blackmail become that a number of law enforcement agencies were advised by the FBI to pay the crooks when their servers were breached, encrypted and shut down.  Here’s what the FBI advises you to do with your IoT devices.

Consumer Protection and Defense Recommendations
Courtesy of  woolva.deviantart.com
  • Isolate IoT devices on their own protected networks;
  • Disable UPnP on routers;
  • Consider whether IoT devices are ideal for their intended purpose;
  • Purchase IoT devices from manufacturers with a track record of providing secure devices;
  • When available, update IoT devices with security patches;
  • Consumers should be aware of the capabilities of the devices and appliances installed in their homes and businesses. If a device comes with a default password or an open Wi-Fi connection, consumers should change the password and only allow it operate on a home network with a secured Wi-Fi router;
  • Use current best practices when connecting IoT devices to wireless networks, and when connecting remotely to an IoT device;
  • Patients should be informed about the capabilities of any medical devices prescribed for at-home use. If the device is capable of remote operation or transmission of data, it could be a target for a malicious actor;
  • Ensure all default passwords are changed to strong passwords. Do not use the default password determined by the device manufacturer. Many default passwords can be easily located on the Internet. Do not use common words and simple phrases or passwords containing easily obtainable personal information, such as important dates or names of children or pets. If the device does not allow the capability to change the access password, ensure the device providing wireless Internet service has a strong password and uses strong encryption.
In 2014 alone, American consumers lost more than $800 million dollars to online scams.  That figure is expected to rise during this shopping season. If you don’t want the Cyber Grinch to ruin your holiday, you need to make sure that everyone in your family is fully prepared to deal with the 12 ways your holiday can be hijacked. 

In this article I have discussed 12 Grinchly scams that are perpetrated on the cyber shopping public every year, especially during the holidays. This article further provides details on how the scams trick consumers into taking the bait and how to avoid these scam so your holiday won’t be ruined. It also provides 9 Consumer Protection and Defense Recommendations.

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If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-workers. If you would like to learn more about this subject, visit the notes page on this blog for the BlogTalkRadio show dated 12/1/15. I recommend checking out "The endless Scams of Christmas (and Beyond)“, “The Byte Before Christmas”,  and “The Hack Attack is Back”. You can also search for other related articles by typing in “Scams” or “Hacking” in the search box top of this blog.

If you feel your business could use some help with its marketing, contact us at 904-410-2091,We will provide a free marketing analysis to help you get better results. If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we will give you immediate access to it. Your information is always kept private and is never sold. Don't forget to Plus us on Google+.



Carl Weiss is president of WorkingtheWebtoWin.com a digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida that routinely works with bloggers and other online marketers to grow their businesses. 

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Has the Internet Made Us Smarter?

Courtesy of  pixabay.com
By Carl Weiss

For all intents and purposes the Internet has been in existence for 20 years. During that time, the entire world has literally been at our fingertips online.  But has the advent of the World Wide Web made people smarter, or has it truly made us dumber as we become more reliant on having access to all kinds of information at the click of a mouse?  In today’s blog, I will look at how the Internet has affected us as a species, as well as examining whether it appears to be helping or hurting our intellectual evolution.  I will also delve into the rise of web-enabled “smart devices” that will soon be taking control of everything from our appliances to driving our cars. 

Caution: Slippery Road Ahead

As I entered the office building where I work, I spied a young woman who works in the office across the hall coming down the stairs.  Wearing high heels with her head canted forward, she was looking at her smartphone and texting as she descended the staircase. 

“You’d better be careful before you wind up taking a tumble,” I told her as she made her way through the lobby.

“Not to worry,” she responded without looking up from her phone.  “I do this all the time.”

Coutesy of  commons.wikimedia.org
“I know,” I shot back.  “That’s what I’m worried about.” As she headed toward the exit, I looked back to see if she ran into the door, as well as wondering whether I was the only one who seemed to realize that the world is becoming an increasingly impersonal place?

Maybe it’s a generational issue, but I remember a time when people weren’t so absorbed in technology that it became a hazard to their health.  I also remember when people took the time to meet and talk without having to bring their technological ball and chain with them. 

Think about it, the same technology that puts the world at our fingertips has actually caused our species to become more and more isolated.  Between texting, social networking, chat rooms, home delivery apps and virtual worlds such as Second Life, it is now possible to avoid interpersonal contact altogether.  (Any parent of a teenager will agree with this conundrum.)  What’s even worse is that technology has insinuated itself into practically every corner of modern society.  If you don’t believe me, go to a restaurant or coffee shop and see how many people are either texting or surfing the web while they eat, even if they have a dining companion sitting across from them.  Most people refer to this as multitasking.  I call it rude.

Besides, research has proven that multitasking isn’t helping us as a species.  It’s hurting us.  Everyone from Stanford Professor Dr. Clifford Nass to Michael Gazziniga, Director of the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind, agrees that multitasking negatively affects everything from attention span and writing quality, to task completion and brain function.

Stanford researchers compared groups of people based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multitaskers—those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch.”

Courtesy of  acreelman.blogspot.com
What’s even more alarming is that the study found evidence that persistently heavy multitasking was shown to actually lower IQ scores by up to 15 points. 

(Score Internet 1, Evolution 0)

Far from pushing a “down with technology” agenda, when the Stanford research was performed, it was assumed that there must be some advantage to multitasking.  So they set out to find it. 

"We kept looking for what they're better at, and we didn't find it," said Ophir, the study's lead author and a researcher in Stanford's Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab.

In the tests, the researchers created two groups of students, those who heavily engaged in media multitasking and those who didn’t.  Each group was then given a series of exercises to test everything from pattern recognition and organizational skills to their ability to filter out irrelevant information.  To their surprise, the research indicated that the more heavily students engaged in multitasking, the worse they did at these tasks.  Puzzled at why the multitaskers did so poorly, the researchers thought that maybe they excelled at switching from one task to another.  So they tested this hypothesis only to conclude that once again, the light multitaskers outperformed the heavy multitaskers.

"They couldn't help thinking about the task they weren't doing," Ophir said. "The high multitaskers are always drawing from all the information in front of them. They can't keep things separate in their minds."

So profound were the discoveries made in this study that it led the researchers to wonder if it was the Internet that had somehow interfered with the cognitive function of the brains of students who were heavily into multitasking, or if they were in fact born with an inability to concentrate.  Either way, the heavy multitaskers, by exhibiting an inability to filter out irrelevant information were clearly at a disadvantage.  Even more alarming, some of the heavy multitaskers also exhibited the same physiological symptoms as drug addicts.  In other words, the more they multitasked, the more electronic stimuli they craved.

Can You Say Crackberry?

Courtesy of  www.flickr.com
Digital addiction is nothing new.  Ever since video games were introduced back in the 1970’s a percentage of the population has espoused a propensity to playing until they dropped.  Back then to feed this Jones meant lining up with quarters at the local arcade or locking yourself in your bedroom to play game consoles until your parents dragged you downstairs for dinner.  But with the advent of the smartphone, the ability to feed your need at any time and place means that a much higher percentage of the population is psychologically addicted to tech in one form or another.  This is creating a problem for many.

Benjamin Wong, a counsellor at Richmond Addiction Services, said he works with individuals between the ages of 12 to 25 and their families to support them in dealing with digital addictions — when they just can't separate themselves from a screen, be it a smartphone, computer or gaming device.”

Just like drug addicts, the effort to break a digital addiction takes a lot of time (as much as a year).  It also isn’t relegated merely to Millennials.  Even Baby Boomers can get hooked on tech.  And the tawdry road that leads to digital addiction is a more slippery slope than that experienced by devotees of illicit pharmaceuticals.  As opposed to back alley deals, digital addiction can be as simple as accessing your favorite social media site.

In a 2014 CBS News report entitled, How Real a Risk is Social Media Digital Addiction,” social media marketer Jason Thibeault reported that he quit Facebook cold turkey when he realized that it was becoming an addiction.

"Just imagine that Facebook is like a digital water cooler. I was drinking A TON of water every hour," he wrote. "Although I'm not a neuroscientist, I'd venture to say that what was happening was related to my Dopamine levels--when I was checking status updates on Facebook, my brain was rewarding itself with Dopamine; when I wasn't, and Dopamine levels dropped as a result, I started 'jonesing for a fix.'"

Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org
Jonesing for a Facebook Fix?  You heard that right.  You and the 700,000 other people that read Jason’s essay.  Is it any wonder that professionals, including the National Institutes of Health are becoming increasingly concerned over the deleterious effects of digital addiction.  While Information Addiction Disorder (IAD) is still not listed as an official psychiatric disorder, its counterpart, Internet Gaming Addiction was added in 2013, (better late than never).

(Score: Internet 2 Evolution: 0)

As our wired world continues its march toward technological domination, far from being an isolated incident, IAD will continue to spread as the Internet becomes available to more and more of the world’s population. (Google is building blimps that are intended to bring the Internet to isolated parts of the world.) To make matters worse, a new age of internet-enabled appliances, clothing and devices such as cars are going to inevitably make inroads into a number of areas that were once thought exclusively the domain of human beings. 

While I could wax apocalyptic about how smart houses, clothes, cars and appliances are going to lead to the disintegration of what’s left of society, I think I’ll let IDG Enterprise CEO Mike Friedenberg chime in with his post on cio.com:

“I look back at the time my parents taught me how to parallel park, and it's a very fond memory. Now all you need to do is push a button and your car will parallel park itself. Makes me wonder what our lives will become. Is the future really about pushing a lot of buttons to get things done?
Courtesy of  en.wikipedia.org
Attending the Consumer Electronics Show this year, you would have thought it was the Year of Smart: smart homes, smart cars, smart fridges, smart forks and spoons, smart watches, smart TVs, and even smart toilets. All of these devices have the ultimate goal of tracking, storing, analyzing, optimizing and educating us humans on how we can be better, healthier, fitter or smarter. It was all a bit overwhelming. If only everything that happens in Vegas really did stay there. ”
(Score: Internet 3 Evolution: 0)

My partner Hector told me about the new Terminator movie where it depicted a possible scenario of our not too distant future. In this future, everyone was wanting and waiting for a single operating system called Genesis. This new OS would run every machine and appliance that we use. The reason people wanted this change was so that it would make it easier for us to learn and use these devices. However the new OS in the movie was actually the artificial intelligence called Sky Net - poised to take over the world and kill off most of the human race. This is not too different from the doomsday proclamations as those issued by the likes of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking concerning the emergence of artificial intelligence. 



There is no doubt that the Internet has allow us access to vast amounts of information and given us a huge knowledge base to draw from. With this the huge amount of knowledge also come a vast amount of responsibility. As to whether the Internet is going to wind up making us smarter or dumber, all I can say is this - that if society takes just a few more steps toward technology, it’s probably going to be game, set, match as far as human evolution is concerned.


----

In this article I have discussed how the improper use of the internet has created a large segment of tech addicted humans worldwide. I provide real studies that show how multitasking people preform much worse than those who don’t multitask and how people actually show withdrawal symptoms when access to their social networks are not available.

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If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-workers. If you would like to learn more about this subject, visit the notes page on this blog for the BlogTalkRadio show dated 11/17/15. I recommend checking out "Are You Prepared for Technological Extinction?“, “The Basics of Biohacking”, Is Too Much Technology Bad for Business?Is The Internet of Everything Really, Everything They're Cracking it Up to Be? and “How to Safely Whet Your Appetite for Smartphone Apps” You can also search for other related articles by typing in “casinos” in the search box top of this blog.

If you feel your business could use some help with its marketing, contact us at 904-410-2091,We will provide a free marketing analysis to help you get better results. If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we will give you immediate access to it. Your information is always kept private and is never sold. Don't forget to Plus us on Google+.



Carl Weiss is president of WorkingtheWebtoWin.com a digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida that routinely works with bloggers and other online marketers to grow their businesses. 

Social Networking Secrets & Best Practices: Part 3 – There is no Substitute

By Hector Cisneros

I have been actively networking in a number of organizations since the early 1980’s. My experience, tells me that most people get out of social networking what they put into it. People often come up to me after a speaking engagement and ask, what is the magic formula for networking success. How can they become successful as a social Networker? My answer is always the same, it’s not a magic formula, although many perceive it to be a secret, a powerful principle or other hidden system of techniques. My answer always state that the secret is in plain sight. Look at the word “network” and the answer is in the title itself. The first parts of this series addressed the relationship between face to face networking and social media. Part two addresses the secret aspects of Giving. In part three of this series, we will discuss the habits that must be acquired and followed, in order to become a consummate Networker. We’ll be looking at 15 important habits which will guide and drive your success. So let’s get to work and begin by dissecting the term Social Networker.


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(1) Its Net Work! – The term Social Network is made up of three words. Social, Net and Work. Word of mouth marketing means that when you go out, its net “work”, not net “sit,”  “eat,” or “socialize.” I don’t mean being unfriendly or uncordial, but you have to be focus. Is your conversation about football or the evening news or is it about networking?  Ask questions related to networking. Ask questions like: How can you help them out? What are they looking for? Who are you looking for this week? Who are they working on this week?  What's the biggest challenge you faced this week? Likewise, let them know who you’re looking for when they in turn say – what are you looking for? By the same token, if you are engaging in social networking online, you have to stay focused. Don’t get distracted by all of the posts. Do your work first. Thank your referral partners, influencers, and testimonial givers first. Post you’re curated and authoritative post before socializing with your friends and family.

(2) There is no such thing as “least effort, most gained. -  In networking, most effort equals most gained. Even when you have leverage, like when speaking to a crowd, you still have to be prepared. Cutting corners, skipping meetings, winging your short presentations, dressing inappropriately, wearing wrinkled clothes, being late, etc., won’t help you be successful.  Being successful requires effort. Not only right effort, but attention to detail and consistent effort. There is no substitute for serious effort.

(3) It's Not a Meeting, its Marketing – Remember, word of mouth is marketing, not just a meeting. You have at least four opportunities at most networking events to network with others. The first, open networking before the event begins. The second is when you get to stand up and give your short presentation. The third is when you are a spotlight speaker, and the fourth is after the networking event where more open networking takes place. Don’t waste any of your marketing opportunities.

(4) Everyone is not your potential referral partner or client - Another myth about networking is that you have the potential to pass referrals to every business in the group and likewise also receive business from everyone in the group. The reality is you can probably do lots of business (about 70% of your referrals, passed and received) with only a few members of the group. This is usually a select few, around seven people that you meet regularly with. The rest of the group will at best provide about 30% of your referrals (both passed and received.) Even if you have a product or service that “is used by all”, it doesn’t mean they are your potential client or referral partners. They may already have pre-existing relationships that will preclude them from doing business with you. The only way to find out for sure is to put in the time necessary to meet all the members of your group and explore how you can help each other.   

(5) Meeting with people one on one is the best way to get more referrals. Listening to
Courtesy of  commons.wikimedia.org

other short presentations and discussing current needs during open networking is helpful, but it’s no substitute for a one on one face to face meeting to explore how you can help each other. The face to face meetings also need to be focused both on education and on learning what's important to each of the parties present. You not only have to learn about each other’s businesses, you also have to learn what drives each of you to get up in the morning, what motivate each of you to succeed. Both the business education and the personal motivators need to be explored if you really want to help each other. Lastly, it’s important to learn about the personal aspect of your referral partner’s lives. Things like their kids and spouse’s name, hobbies and past times they like to engage in. Learning these aspects and then taking them into account when interacting with your partners also helps to strengthen the relationship. This is why I think so many sales are made during golf outings.

(6) There are many Networking Skills that need to be mastered. - Being skilled at working a room or presenting will not take you to the top two percent of all Networkers. You need to have a givers mindset to start with and a willingness to do whatever it takes. You also need to learn other skills as well.  First, you also have to have good communication and selling skills. I don’t mean closing tricks or techniques, but solid business consulting, listening and solution-designing skills. You also need to ask for the order. Another way of giving is being active in the management and production of the network itself. What I am referring to here is being active in the group’s leadership. Serving the group gives you more visibility, and this can eventually lead to more referrals. However, doing a poor job in a leadership position can also lead to less business as well.

(7) Specific is Terrific. - When presenting at a meeting or online, being specific will increase your results drastically. If you’re asking for a referral, being specific can be the difference between failure and success. It can mean the difference between an easy qualified referral and a referral that not only is a lead, it’s a bad lead. Being specific is most effective when you have already built trust among the members of a networking group. However, it can also help you find what you need when posting on your social networks. I often see Networkers ask for a specific referral by name and then another members of that network respond by saying, “I can connect you with that person.” This is very common in BNI and on LinkedIn. By the same token, if you post a question asking for help with a specific issue on a social network you will almost always get that help. Even if you’re asking for one more sale to reach your goal. Again, this assumes you have taken the time to build trusting relationships with your social networks.

(8) Practice Improves Performance. -  You would never pay a radio station or TV company to “just wing” your commercials.  So why do so many Networkers’ just wing it when doing their short presentations? Spend time every week writing down and practicing aloud your short presentation. This should be a “Must Do” item on your networking checklist. I spend about 20 minutes writing out my 60-second presentation for BNI.  Once written, I then practice saying it aloud. I then practice it again the night before and the morning of the meeting, each and every week. Practice is an easy way to improve your performance. Don’t be lazy, the practice will improve your ability to get more referrals.

(9) One-sized Presentation don’t fit all Networks. - Every Networker needs to create and practice a 30-second, a 60-second, a two-minute, a five-minute, and even a 15-minute presentation. There are many networking opportunities and each group has its own rules. Being prepared gives you a leg up on the competition when it comes to building your credibility among the other members. By having these five different presentations ready to go at all times, you will be able to step in with short notice and take advantage of more speaking opportunities.

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(10) Presentation Necessities. - Make sure your presentation includes your name. It should also have some type of “hook or catch phrase.” Consider telling a compelling story, adding an offer, and/or a call to action. I like to tell my referral partners to remind their prospect that I’ll provide them with a web analysis worth $600 for free, if the three of us can schedule coffee or lunch meeting. Also make sure all your contact information is listed on your handouts and at the end of your power point presentations.

(11) To be the best, you have to PROVIDE the best. – Always deliver the best product or service you’re capable of for the money being paid.  Most companies provide “just good enough” products or services for the money they receive. Exceeding your customers' expectations should be your goal. I’m not saying to give away the farm, but to be considered the best, you have to provide the best. This, however, does not mean you charge the most for your product or services. It means you provide the best value for the money spend. People shop value not price. Be more valuable!

(12) Networking as a team works best. - When attending networking events, it’s best to team up with another referral partner where you both know each other’s objectives; this allows you to “split the room” to work it more efficiently. Let each team member know who you're looking to be introduced to and vice versa, be ready to help your partners find their and introduce prospects to them. I generally set a goal of finding one or two new prospects/referral partners every 10 to 20 minutes. My goal is not to sell anyone anything but instead to set up meetings at a later date to have a more meaningful conversation that allows us to find mutual benefit.

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(13) Track and measure as much as possible. - It’s important that you track your actions and engagement. Both face to face and social media Networking can be tracked, measured, and the results can be predicted. Word of mouth marketing is quantifiable. It can produce predictable results. If you know how many events you plan to attend each year (approximately) and you track how often you meet with referral partners, and track the results of the referral (i.e., close ratio to referrals received), you will quickly learn what your average weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual sales results are. I know that I received about two referrals a month from my BNI chapter, and I usually get four referrals when I am the spotlight speaker. I know that if I get in front of qualified referrals, and actually provide them a business proposal, I will close about 57% of them. By the same token, I know on average home many followers read our blogs based on the number of social post published each day. I also know that the more quality interactions I engage in raises the number of social leads I receive as well.

(14) Always bring your networking tools with you. Never attend a networking event without a name badge, something to write with, your business cards, a list of potential prospects, and a how can I help you attitude. On the social media side, always make sure your profile is complete, answer all engaged followers, help all influencer  and provide useful, relevant and timely content, preferable your own authoritative material daily.

(15) You should calculate what your time is worth. - If you understand the time value of
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money, you can better measure how effective you are when spending your time at networking events. You can come up with this figure in many ways. I look at my annual production rate in dollars and divide it by the number of working hours that I spent to produce that dollar amount. Some people take their annual pay and divided it by the amount of time they spend networking. Others look at the total cost of networking activities (including drive time, parking fees, meal, meeting fees and organization fee, etc.), add that to the hourly value of time they spend networking to come up with a figure. If you do this exercise you will realize the word of mouth and social media networking are not free. First of all, it’s not cheap because there are hard cost (membership fees, meal fees, parking and other travel cost), and lastly they actually consume a considerable amount of time and energy (which also equals money)! That means you have to be efficient as a Networker, otherwise you’re throwing your money away. This will make you understand the importance of delivering a polished and practiced short presentation. It will make you realize the value of effectively engaging in meaningful one to one meetings. It will also make it perfectly clear the value of leveraging your long presentations when you get to deliver your message to a large group of networking enthusiast.

In this article I have provided 15 specific Social Networking Secrets & Best Practices that will elevate your social networking performance to new levels. These 15 best practices will provide the reader with an effective way to increase their networking efficiency and improve their social networking effectiveness. Yes it will help you get more referrals. It shows how teamwork, practice and planning can mean the difference between coming up empty handed and walking away with several referrals and new referral partners.

That’s my opinion. I look forward to hearing yours.

This article is a part of a three part series. I recommend reading parts one and two as well to
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make sure you get the big picture along with fine detail. If you found this article useful please share it with your friends, family and co-workers. If you have a comment or a different opinion, join the conversation by adding it to the comment section below. I recommend checking out "Six Cardinal Rules of Social Media Success" or "Seven Secrets of Social Media Magnets", “12 Secrets of Social Media Success “ and "How to Win Friends and Influence People in the 21st Century.".  You can also search for other related articles by typing in “word of mouth or social networking” in the search box at the top of this blog.


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Hector Cisneros is a partner, COO and Social Media Director for the award-winning, Internet-based marketing firm, Working  the Web to Win, in Jacksonville, FL. You can connect with him on TwitterFacebookGoogle+,  LinkedIn,  and YouTube.  He’s also the co-host of BlogTalkRadio’s “Working the Web to Win,” where he and Working the Web to Win’s co-founder, Carl Weiss, make working the web to win simple for every business. He's a published author of three  books, "60 Seconds to Success"(available at Amazon and B&N), and "Internet Marketing for the 21st Century," which you can get by filling out the form above. He’s also the co-author of the new book, “Working The Web to Win,” which is now available on Amazon.com.

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