When an image Watermark is too much.

Photographers use watermarks to protect their work from image theft. But there is situations where watermarks can do more harm than good like going overboard with them.

More than one watermark, large or colored text, watermarks that run through the center of the image, basically any watermark that is too prominent distracts from the image and can actually hurt business.

People who buy photo are less likely to want to license an image with overly distracting watermarks. They may think you are a difficult person to work with.

Your images are less likely to be shared by others via social networks especially those that already link back to your work.

Building excitement about your work is important for your business and subtle, non distracting watermarks are more likely to do that.

Fact is, someone who wants to steal your work will. It’s not hard to remove a watermark. So overdoing it on your watermark isn’t going to really do anything but ruin your awesome image.

YELP EXPERIMENT – IF YELP WAS IN THE REAL WORLD

This video attempts to demonstrate how harmful the Yelp business model is by showing what it looks like in real life at an actual business.   This is no different then what they are doing online. If this isn’t ok in real life, then why is yelp allowed to do this online?

 

Hawaii Web Tips

5 Incredibly useful TIPS for Hawaii Businesses

If you are a Hawaii Business finding yourself navigating the unfamiliar and ever changing world of the web you are no doubt looking to cut through the crap. The rapidly changing online landscape makes it hard for even the professionals to keep up. There is a lot of noise out there and these people are screaming out you from all directions. There is an over saturated market and not enough available education for our small businesses.

As a business you need to know that there are people out there right now targeting Hawaii Businesses. Our Aloha spirit makes Hawaii more susceptible to falling prey.

Through unethical advertising, false or exaggerated claims and outright lies people have succeeded in scamming many local businesses already. I have had many clients come to us trying to recover their losses.

The good news is, that it can be easily avoided.

 

RULE #1 – DO YOUR RESEARCH!

I can’t stress this enough. The secret to avoiding being ripped off, or ending up with something that will cost you more money to fix is this point right here.

CHECK EVERYTHING OUT!

No doubt many of you have already gotten emails, cold calls, even personal visits to your business, claiming they can help you spin your business into online gold.  Some of these people are nice, friendly and charming. Others resort to high pressure sales tactics.

It does not matter what any of these people say or how well intentioned they may seem. No matter how great their website is, how impressive their presentation or marketing materials are, no matter what they promise you. IGNORE IT and follow these tips.

TIPS

  • Avoid unsolicited services. If these businesses were doing what they claim, they would not need to solicit you. The best businesses have people coming to them. Many of them don’t market because they don’t have to.
  • Do your own research. Ask around! Get referrals from local business organizations. Better yet, look around and businesses who seem to be doing it right, and just ask them how they did it and who they use.
  • Avoid using businesses who don’t give examples of their work, or have vague information about who they are and where they are from.  Google them.  Check out their website.  If you have even a little trouble finding information about them on the web be wary. A reputable business will be transparent and easily accessible online.
  • Never rely on their own claims (even screenshots of their work can be manipulated). CHECK THEM OUT. Don’t take their word for it. Taking an hour to simply check out things like if they are a legal business, calling some of their clients, and actually going to the websites in their portfolios to see if they exist is a good idea.
  • Be careful of off shore businesses. Try to stay with local, or at list in country businesses who are REGISTERED legal businesses paying taxes. Not only does it show they are more serious, but it helps you recover damages. Local businesses also do a better job with marketing because they know the area and the keywords that only locals would know.
  • Be careful of Craigslist. I am not saying you can’t find any decent help on Craigslist, I am just saying that you need to know what type of people market there. I would say about 1 in 20 is trustworthy. Many of theme appear to be local, but are actually not. Again, not necessarily a bad thing that they aren’t local, the problem is that a company that is not being forthright and find it necessary to be vague and misleading about their origins and location are not trustworthy.
  • Do not trust a company that promises your page one ranking. No one can guarantee that and no ethical company would make that claim.
  • Try and find a FULL SERVICE company. Someone who not only designs the sites but also codes them. There are web designers and web developers. You want someone who is both. You also want someone who understands that Search Engine Optimization needs to be built into a website and someone who offers education and training, and knows how to integrate and leverage Social Media.

FACT: There are numerous businesses right now, marketing in Hawaii that have false information on their site, from fictional clients, to false local addresses.

 

RULE #2 – KNOW THE ENEMY

So who are the people we see cost businesses the most money? Let’s get to know them:

  1. The well intentioned family member, friend or start up company who set up a facebook page or website once
  2. The unethical money-hungry scam artists.
  3. The off shore or out of state company with the local sales people
  4. You.

 

The Friend or Startup

I am not saying your friends or new companies are bad people.  But well intentioned people can do just as much damage to your business online and it will cost your money in the end.  This could be your friend, your brother in law, your employee, a new business just starting out.  Any experience professional will tell you that we spend more time and more of our clients money repairing the bad work that resulted from a well intentioned person. You were looking to save money and in the end spent more than had you had paid someone to do it right the first time.

There is a lot involved in building websites and successful social media campaigns. It takes years of experience. No one can learn this overnight. Some of these people mean well and are looking for a way to make extra money or start a new career.  I have watched 11 businesses spring up around Hawaii offering social media services in the last 4 months at costs higher than I charge. ALL of them have new twitter and facebook accounts with less than 100 followers, no clients or campaigns to speak of.   They have some great looking websites, and well written content and marketing materials. But not one of them have any experience.

True story:  A client of mine had a sister in law that wanted to start building websites.  She had a built a few and told my client she wanted to redesign theirs.  She didn’t do a bad job with the design.  But she made a lot of rookie mistakes that made it clear she didn’t understand search engine optimization or copyright law.  The site got them in trouble with google and was removed from the searches, they lost all of their ranking and they got hit with $4000 in fees from copyright owners because she used illegal imagery and non licensed products.

 

The out of state company with the local sales people

There are quite a few of these in Hawaii now. They are either out of state or out of country firms that have created website specifically for Hawaii, that have local numbers and addresses (some real and some not). They have hired local sales people to attend meetings or solicit businesses.

The problem I have with these companies are their tactics.  I feel its unethical and misleading to encroach on another market by misrepresenting yourself as a local company. If you want to market in that area fine, but be forthright about who you are and where you are. Several local companies have contacted some of these people. When we asked them outright if they were local they lied or gave answers that implied they were.

You

Don’t hate me for saying this. But as a business owner, you can be your own worst enemy.  SEE RULE #

 

RULE #3   WHEN IN DOUBT, GET HELP

The TRUTH: You are going to have to pay for help. Its just that simple.  Think about your own business.  I am sure there are people who choose to try to do it themselves, or there are cheap options for what you do.  And you know, at some point they are going to need a professional.  If you try to cut corners, you are taking a risk. And if you do that, you only have yourself to blame.

If you can’t afford to hire someone to build your website or run your marketing campaign and plan to try yourself, try hiring a consultant.   Some companies are willing to offer consultations to small businesses. Maybe the web designer you wanted to hire but can’t afford might have an hourly rate and would be willing to sit down with you and help you. Be honest with them. They can discuss your budget, available options, and you can even hire them to teach you or your staff social media or how to update your website.

Workshops and seminars are also a huge help.  Try an attend regular events to help keep you in the KNOW.

 

RULE #4    BUILD A TEAM

When approaching someone to handle your web design or marketing needs, its important you understand a few important things.  You to look at them as part of your team.  You need someone you can trust and that has a history of supporting businesses in your community because things keep changing and you will continue to need help.  Building a relationship with someone now will save you so much time and money over time.

When hiring your own staff, try and find people with experience in social media or online marketing or who are interested in it. Having someone on your staff like that will be hugely helpful.  You can pay them a little more and give them a cool title and make them in charge of working with your web studio. Most will be grateful for the experience as well.

The biggest mistake you can make is treating your prospective web team like you are hiring a new employee and that its their job to impress you.

Here is a little inside information. You are being interviewed too!

You will be sized up and the results of that assessment will determine the cost and whether they will even take the job. In order for us to give you a proper proposal, we have to know what is involved in a project.

Most companies, have a set pricing scale they go from. But there are things that can come into play that will affect this scale and that is YOU. There are red flags they look for in potential clients.

Once you find a team you can trust its important you understand how to work with them. If you have done your homework and followed these tips, you should have a qualified team behind you and should not be worrying. Now, its time to let them do their work.

BE:

  • Timely
  • Available
  • Responsive
  • respectful

NO:

  • Micromanaging
  • Asking WHY too much
  • Nitpicking or complaining about cost

Follow these rules and you will get the best out of them and they will WANT to help you.

 

RULE #5  BE SECURE

There are so many security issues, that it is now more than ever, vitally important you take steps to secure yourself online.

I am surprised by how many people do not have IT people for their computers.   I see clients with very unsecure systems, passwords, emails, etc.

I can tell you that when something goes wrong, and it always does, it is huge and never a good time for them.

BE PROACTIVE, don’t wait for something to go wrong.  Having an IT person come by every few months to check out your computers and help you stay up to date is worth the money.

Have a password system in place, where you and your employees change your passwords regularly.

Consider investing in APPLE products.  Apple has a huge amount of resources, training, and support that does not cost anything and they have an entire department that supports businesses.

 

 

stop online petitions

The danger of online petitions. Have we become slaktivists?

Not a day goes by that I am not emailed a petition. I have a few friends that start one every time they get upset.

I love you, but stop.

Not only does it annoy your friends, but it is completely useless and in many cases it is a sham.

The idea of signing a petition and adding your name among hundreds or thousands seems like a great idea. Except it really means nothing. NOTHING.  The actual convenience of signing a petition online makes you passive.  Admit it, how many of those did you sign and forget about it, assuming that the people signing will do the work? You saw the petition and pounded your fist and said, “That is terrible, things must change!!”  So you signed it, and then minutes later were back to watching cat videos on youtube.

So here’s a reality check in regards to online petitions: they are meaningless in regards to actual change in civil society – what that means is, if you think a government is going to change a law or bring in a new law because you signed an online petition – you are mistaken. That is not going to happen. Why?

Most are a Sham

How many of you shared something on Facebook or signed a petition and found out later it was a lie?  There are people who make money getting likes and email addresses and there is no better way to do this then to put up a photoshopped picture of a guy abusing a dog and some made up story about corruption and abuse, followed by a plead to share and sign a petition.  I am amazed out how quickly people do this without even trying to validate the cause.  So what happens is you flood the internet and your politicians with fake and useless petitions which actually hurts the legitimate causes!  According to the Congressional Management Foundation, the House of Representatives got 99,053,399 messages via the Internet in 2004.  So thanks to the flood of these petitions, your valid petition really isn’t going to get read; usually the reason organizations try so hard to get you to sign one anyway is that politicians and advocacy groups value your email address over your voice.

Digital Signatures Are Useless
People are geographically dispersed.   When you “sign” a petition online, your IP address is used to verify your actual location where you are signing.   So, while you may very much be a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, you may be in Seoul, Korea on business when you sign it.   You feel like a hero, but your signature became useless.   It is “foreign” and therefore inadmissible.

Digital Petitions Are Not Recognized
They have no legal bearing at all in the United States, Canada or United Kingdom. They cannot be formally introduced into federal, state, provincial or municipal chambers for consideration.

But Don’t They Help With Fundraising for Government Support?
Sorry, but they don’t.  At all.   If you’re talking about getting money from the city of Topeka, Kansas and 90% of the signatures come from upstate New York, well, why would Council care?   Those signatures have no real bearing, at all, in any legal format.

Digital Signatures Are Not Legal
In addition, there is no truly accepted standard by governments anywhere in the Western world in regards to a digital signature.   Therefore they are inadmissible.   Anyone can set up multiple email addresses and pose as an individual.   It takes just a few minutes.   While you might treasure your person Gmail or Hotmail address, law makers don’t care.

Do Online Petitions Have Any Value?
Fortunately, they do.   Mostly in terms of brand reputation and management.  A number of validated IP addresses and signatures in a given country, region or city may give a company a “sense” that it has a major PR or marketing issue at hand.   They are more likely to consider public opinion in this regard as they know the issue has reached a broader audience.

So how do you make change?

If you are truly passionate about an issue, give it some respect by spending some time providing a useful solution.  Instead of just singing a useless petition or asking for someone else to, create an informational page that shows the proof validating the issue, who and what is affected, the organizations that are responsible or are already involved in the fight, and the places responsible for the act or policing the act that you are petitioning.   With just a few hours of research you can get most of this information.  There are plenty of free resources online to put this information, like a blog or a Facebook page.  Most people will get involved but you have to make it clear and easy, just like an online petition, but in this case you are giving them the tools to actually reach people who can make a difference.  Providing validation that the issue is real, is important otherwise people will ignore it.

And lastly, share it with the right people, the ones you know can actually help.

And don’t let people forget.  Don’t hound them, but keep them updated and show them that things are moving in the right direction.  This will inspire people to help more and in a more meaningful way.

Here is the last petition you should ever sign:

I will stop hiding behind a computer and instead get out there and take action.

I will become a ACTIVE activist. I will get out there and protest issues I oppose.  I will attend events and rallies that are important to me.   I will start committees and grassroots movements to incite real change and make the world a better place.

Source for some of this came from: ttp://www.mediabadger.com/2012/06/online-petitions-why-they-fail/#sthash.VzDsKm7B.dpuf

How to get Banned on Reddit Part 2

This is a follow up to my post How to get Banned on Reddit.

bannedonreddit

 

I admit, the banning didn’t sit well with me.

I consider myself pretty savvy, I know my way around social networks. I might be a little over opinionated and annoying sometimes but a good guy nonetheless.

I suddenly felt challenged.

I will conquer Reddit.

SO I red the reddiquette rules.  In cases like this I am supposed to reach out to the mods, introduce myself and tell my story but it didn’t work.

Reddit rules tell you when all else fails, post about it publicly and call them out. That just seems so extreme and negative.

But I did. And everyone including mods advised start a new account. This is just another thing that makes Reddit different, as usually that is frowned on.

But OK time for another account.

Well that was the best advice EVER because now life on Reddit is super duper.  I found the geek reddits, where people are awesome and fun and like minded.

Ok yes, I like Reddit now. You just have to find the right subs. Avoid ones that are cliquey, those are more of the “earn your stripes” subs.

Travel Union Scam Check

Old Scam resurfaces from Travel Union, this time as an Energy Rebate Program

Updated July 2, 2013

More scams from Travel Union, this one is for an Energy Rebate Program.

Hawaii homeowners are reporting receiving checks from ENERGY REBATE PROGRAM and lists the bank as Travel Union in Scottsdale Arizona.

[Update] We have been getting calls from solar companies saying that their customers are also receiving these.

These checks, pictured below, are presented as part of an “energy rebate program” and claimed to be sponsored by the “Federal and State Government” and working directly with Hawaiian Electric.

Travel Union Scam Check

 

First red flag was the name Travel Union, on the check.  You may remember Travel Union from their travel voucher scams last year where they falsely used names like American Airlines to make victims believe they were receiving FREE travel vouchers. These scams had many variations from Bait and Switch offers to Phishing scams. People trying to redeem the vouchers were told they were no good , many had already given out personal information.

BOSS went undercover and called this company using the local number listed on the check as 808-206-7734.

The person who answered from the call center said they were located in Arizona, and that I was pre-qualified to receive that money and I just had to answer a few questions. These questions included if I owned my home, what my credit score and income was and other personal information. When I balked at the questions and asked him to verify this wasn’t a scam, I was told to go to their website http://www.gogreenenergyrebates.com and to call him back if I want “money in my pocket”.

This was red flag 2 as the website is very general and does not give any of the detailed information they claim will help prove they are legit.

I did call back and was asked to make an appointment so they could come out and perform and energy assessment. I was told I should have my energy bill ready.  When I asked who exactly was coming she told me to check the website for a list of the companies they use. The website has no such information.  I asked her to clarify who they were and what this was, and she said they are working directly with our energy company and the government. I asked specifically, “so you are working with Hawaiian Electric?” and she replied “That is correct.” [I will be posting this recorded call ]

I called to cancel the appointment telling her that I was uncomfortable that they wouldn’t tell me who was coming to my home.  She said that the information was readily available on the website.  When I told her that the websites was vague and did not contain any of this information or anything at all that says who they are and what they are doing, she said she that she had no other information and told to just send people to the website.

Hawaii Energy who does do the rebates, issued the following statement which says, “We would like to clarify that this mailing is neither approved nor endorsed by Hawaii Energy. Residents are encouraged to use caution when responding to unsolicited offers such as this. Official communication from Hawaii Energy will always include the Hawaii Energy logo.”

US Department of Energy, this is not how these rebates work, that they do not offer them directly to taxpayers in this way and tell you to avoid companies sending checks and claiming to be working with the Government.

On a personal note, I am amazed this company is still around. Despite being reported to the FBI, international news coverage, BBB reports, and consumer complaints from many big organizations this company has somehow still been allowed to continue these scams.

The only way to stop companies like this is to be an informed consumer and REPORT the scam immediately.  The FBI and FTC is overwhelmed with reports and act on the ones with the most reports so

eceiving a letter claiming to offer $1,350 in exchange for airline tickets. The letter urges the recipient to act quickly — “Flights fill quickly. Call now to see if you qualify.” The origin of the letter is Travel Union of Scottsdale, Arizona – a company that doesn’t exist. Another company stamped on the check and offer — US Airlines — doesn’t exist either. Yet the name is familiar enough to have fooled some recipients into redeeming the “offer”. – See more at: http://www.scambook.com/blog/2013/04/back-from-sabbatical-phony-airline-phishing-scam-resurfaces/#sthash.kJidsATq.dpuf

REPORT IT NOW!

 

Department of Energy on Fraud and how to report it

The Department of Energy is strongly committed to effective program oversight, including allegations of fraud. The Department takes such allegations seriously and is committed to keeping the public informed about fraudulent practices.

A growing number of companies provide energy efficiency services. While the vast majority operates in full compliance with the law, fraudulent companies and scams involving home energy products have been reported.

To report suspected fraud, waste, or abuse, including scams involving home energy efficiency services, please contact the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) Hotline:

Please provide as much information as possible. You may remain anonymous. If you provide contact information, the OIG may contact you for more information.

Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Fraud:

  • Beware of phone calls from people claiming to represent the United States Government. Few, if any, branches of the Federal Government would contact you in this manner.
  • Beware of offers of Government grants available for a fee. As a research and development organization, the Department of Energy does not often offer grants directly to taxpayers.
  • Fraudulent callers may also ask you to send money in exchange for grant information. The Federal Government does not charge application or service fees for grants or grant information. This type of activity is commonly referred to advance fee fraud.
  • Beware of a caller that claims to be endorsed by the Department of Energy. The Department of Energy does not “endorse” any provider of goods or services.
  • When in doubt, ask for written verification of any items being offered.
  • Never provide financial information, payment, or personally identifiable information (such as a social security number or date of birth) to an unverified caller. If you have already provided personal information to the perpetrators of such a scam, you should contact your banking institution for assistance in protecting yourself from identity theft. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has set up an Identify Theft Web site which provides detailed information to help avoid identity theft and learn what to do if your identity is stolen.
  • If you are suspicious of a phone call or product offer, ask for more information by mail, a mailing address, and phone number. Review information carefully before committing or sending any payments.

Other SCAM reports involving TRAVEL UNION from BBB, Fodors etc:

http://www.bbb.org/blog/2012/07/scam-alert-american-airlines-name-being-used-in-fake-ticket-scam/#comment-82468

http://www.fodors.com/news/story_4845.html