January 24, 2015

Start Pinning With Pinterest In 2015

By Peyton Smith, Consociate Winter 2015 Intern

Raise your hand if you love a lazy Sunday morning flipping through magazines and dog-earring the pages of recipes, outfits or home improvement projects you aim to take on? Me, too.

That’s also why I love Pinterest. Admittedly, Consociate’s Founder Steph Heinatz calls it the “social media vortex,” because once you log in it’s hard to log off! It’s that addicting…and why it’s also a great place for brands to showcase their looks, tips, ideas and newest creations.

And yes, Pinterest, just like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, is a powerful way to market brands and engage with customers.

How? Here are a few of our best tips for making the most of your Pinterest account, boards and pins.

Happy pinning!

Know your brand.

Keep your Pinterest boards focused on things relevant to you and your company. People looking at your boards won’t learn about the company if you are pinning things that aren’t relevant. The Inn at Warner Hall, for example, doesn’t pin things related to clothing. They focus on history, food and hospitality.

Specify and organize.

Label each board and pin things on that board accordingly. For example, Lowe’s has a board titled, “Grillin’ and Chillin’” with different recipes, grills, and chillin’ ideas. Having clear title makes browsing easy.

The more the better. (When it comes to Pinterest!)

Pinterest users like to browse, therefore the more pins and boards, the better. It allows users to stay on your page and browse longer. The key to having more is to keep everything organized. Refer back to the previous tip!

The name says it all.

Looking for a creative title? Ask Whole Foods. This grocery store chain is the master of titling boards. “Cheese is the Bee’s Knees” lets us know exactly what that board is about, while attracting us to it with the clever name.

Pin Placement.

Research shows that the pins placed front and center are the ones that receive the most views. Pay attention to where your pins and boards are and organize accordingly.

Connect to your web site.

Be sure to have a link to your Pinterest page easily accessible on your web site – footer and header, for example – and give people an option to easily pin things from your blog by adding the PIN IT button.

Pin regularly.

This is important to remember. It’s not about pinning a lot one day and then being idle. Pinning regularly keeps your profile’s pins in the feed of each pin’s category. This will help grow your followers…and business.

Need help starting? Contact us today! We love Pinterest!

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Get Insta-Famous in 2015

By Peyton Smith, Consociate Winter 2015 Intern, and Stephanie Heinatz, Consociate Founder

What do pictures, hashtags, locations, tags and filters all have in common?

Yes, Instagram!

But the answer we were looking for is the key to your social branding in 2015. And we’re not just talking for business to consumer focuses companies. Instagram is emerging as a KEY SOCIAL MARKETING PLATFORM for business to business, too.

This growing social media platform, owned by Facebook, has more than 80 million active users…and adds more each day. It’s mobile only, which makes sense given that more people every day are accessing their social networks on their phones only. And it taps into a younger demographic. Even if you think that your target market is a 55-year-old man, this is still a platform we are telling ALL client to get involved with in 2015. Why? The 30-year-old that’s on Instragram now is your customer for tomorrow.

Plus…it’s just fun! Here are some things we’re tapping into on Instagram for ourselves and our friends.

Tell a story with images.

Balance fun pictures as well as pictures from your business. Check out the Consociate Instagram page for examples. You’ll find pictures of the kids of Consociate at birthday parties with images of our team in action interviewing and writing powerful stories. Severn, our office dog, makes quite a few appearances, too!

If there are just pictures of your products or business, that’s not telling a story about your company. Show a “behind the scenes” look to give users a different view.

Fun pictures allow your followers as well as other Instagram users to see what kind of business you are, so make sure your pictures tell that story.

Get followers.

It’s simple: the more followers you have, the more people you will have view your business/company. Use relevant, popular hashtags to attract users to your account. You can also increase your followers by being social yourself and following others and liking their photos.

Reward followers.

Offering rewards to your followers is a way to not only increase followers, but also business for your company. Retail brands can reward their followers with promotions or offer a discount code when they follow. More followers and more business? That’s killing two birds with one stone!

Host contests.

Who doesn’t want to be Insta-famous? Hosting a photo contest on your business’ Instagram account is a way to keep fans engaged and keep them coming back to your account. Trivia questions, photo-of-the-day or random winners are all ways to engage with your users, and have them engage with you, too.

Want some more Ista-tips? Contact us today! We love a good brainstorming session with business owners!

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Boost Your Facebook Page In 2015

By Peyton Smith, Consociate Winter 2015 Intern, and Stephanie Heinatz, Consociate Founder

Two years ago, as we started working with brand new businesses, we spent most of our time educating entrepreneurs on why having their brands and storefronts on Facebook was an integral part of their social marketing strategy.

Today, everyone knows that and as a result Facebook has become very loud. Lots of posts. Lots of things to like. Lots of people to compete with.

As we dive deeper into 2015, Facebook marketing is contingent on bringing something of value to your clients, to your customers, to the world. You have to stand out and not just be part of the crowd.

By applying those basic tenets to a Facebook strategy, companies on Main Street can compete more equally with brands managed on Wall Street.

So what are the tactics you can use to accomplish this?

Spark conversation on your posts.

Social media, whatever platform you are using, is meant to be social. Don’t just tell people what your company is doing. Ask them what they’re doing? Engage your audience. Get their feedback. Give them a reason to have a social conversation with you. Post a picture of a new designer’s tops you’re carrying in your boutique and ask what people would pair it with. Weekend on the way? Ask folks what their plans are…and share your own.

Be visual! Photos and Videos! Post them!

Although this may seem simple, remember to post pictures and videos, especially funny ones, to increase your number of “shares.” We are visual people, as a rule. And when you think about how people use Facebook most today – on their Smart Phones – it will be a picture or a video that will grab their attention first. This doesn’t have to be complicated, either. Do a quick virtual tour of your shop. Take a picture with your iPhone, put a cool filter on it and post.

Be a source.

Don’t try to sell, sell, sell. That’s not why we use social media. We use social media to connect. To get smarter. To stay in touch. Use your Facebook page to give tips, to educate, to show people that you have advice to give and it’s worth listening to by sharing your knowledge and not just telling people you have it.

Spend time online.

We’re saving the best and most important for last. SPEND TIME ONLINE. Don’t just post and walk away. Remember that tip above that social media requires you to be social? This is what we’re talking about here. This is an important tip that often many companies forget. And, quite honestly, it’s where the time commitment to social media really comes in. If you are asking people what they think, you are going to need to respond to them. This is where you can really connect with your audience. A few extra minutes spent online can give your brand an extra boost. It will also show your fans that you care enough to talk to them. If they walked in your store and said hello you would say hi back, right? Social media is no different. Whatever you do offline you should do online, too.

More questions? Contact us anytime for some tips! Or sign up for our newsletter!

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Meet Matt Sabo

Matt Sabo. What can we say? His way with words. His style as a reporter. Quite frankly, we’re inspired by him. We’ve read his work for years and now he’s part of the Consociate team!

This introduction is proof of his talents. Read on.

Matt was born and raised on the mean streets of east Bend, Oregon. It’s an old mill town hard along the Deschutes River where the big skies of the central Oregon High Desert meet the piney eastern slopes of the Cascades mountain range. In Bend, Matt became a dead-eye with a BB gun shooting targets in the patch of juniper trees and sagebrush next to the cemetery across the street. He also honed his craft of blowing up tree stumps with bombs manufactured out of packs of tricolor sparklers duct-taped tightly together that truly elevated the fun at the Fourth of July get-togethers with friends.

He became an accomplished long distance runner, eventually competing in the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials in the steeplechase. Matt credits his very large older brother with developing his running abilities by virtue of the fact that after ambushing his mountain of a brother, typically with a dart or other sharp projectile delivered expertly to the backside, Matt would peel out the back door squealing like a banshee knowing that if he made it to the cemetery, he would probably live because his brother would run out of steam.

Matt earned a track scholarship to the University of Portland, thanks to his large, older brother, where he dabbled in journalism studies while running lots and lots of miles through the Rose City. In short order he met his soon to be wife, Julie. He actually was introduced to her by friends on the track team the night before she gave birth to a son, Brenton, becoming a single mom. After a 16-month courtship, Matt and Julie married and he pretty much has kept her pregnant ever since. Over the next 24 years of wedded bliss, the two would yield 13 offspring, if our math is right. We’re happy to report that during that time, Matt and Julie have only on two occasions driven off after losing count of the kids. Thankfully, they were only brief abandonments and the kids were quickly recovered and required little in the way of counseling.

In 2004, Matt and his family —  we believe at the time he and Julie had around nine kids, maybe 10 at the most — left Oregon for Gloucester, Va. A newspaper reporter, Matt took a job with the Daily Press and worked out of the Gloucester bureau covering all the major news of the county. Like the rogue non-native oysters from an experiment gone awry that managed to slip away and grow to be the size of dinner plates. And he covered other big stories, such as how long it takes to be here before you’re no longer a `come here.’ (It turns out that your mother has to be born here before you’re no longer a ‘come here.’)

Not content to take the easy path of life and just work and raise 14 kids, Matt would also plant and pastor a non-denominational church in Gloucester — Calvary Chapel Gloucester — and become a missionary with Serving In Mission. He would quit his job at the Daily Press and spend his time pastoring and in missions, traveling to Africa and Haiti to work with an organization called the Transformational Education Network to help church leaders and educators in those countries start Bible-based computer training schools. He continues his pastoring and missions work, though Matt and Julie appear to be holding steady (as of today) at 14 kids.

With Consociate Media, Matt is totally stoked to tell stories of entrepreneurs and successful businesses, through writing, editing, blogging and on social media. Writing has been a lifelong passion and Matt and looks forward to meeting great people, connecting with them and helping them grow their business.

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The Consociate Story…by Hannah Gatens

definition of consociate

Story by Hannah Gatens

If there is something that relates all of us together, we’re willing to bet that is has something to do with a good story.

Stories have the power to change the world. Literally. And that’s exactly what Steph and Rudy Heinatz have set out to do — change the world one story at a time.

Using my journalism training from Christopher Newport University (where Steph and Rudy also did their undergraduate work) I took on the Consociate story using the 5 Ws and H – WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHY, WHERE and HOW.

This is Consociate, in my words.

The Who.

To best understand Consociate, and to get an idea why Steph often posts on Facebook how much she loves the team that’s come together, you have to meet the team.

Steph Heinatz The woman behind the operation and the one who dreamed about connecting people one story at a time.

Steph is a creative and kind-hearted storyteller who grew up an Army brat (homes only in Germany and Gloucester, Virginia), graduated from Christopher Newport University, spent time reporting for the Daily Press and other papers (including time in the Middle East) and built Consociate from the ground up.

Ask her and she’ll tell you it started with pillow talk with Rudy. Dreaming of taking her training as a writer for newspapers – narrative, non-fiction storytelling – and applying it to businesses.

Nowadays? She’s watching her design launch into a full-fledged media company. Momma to one of the littlest Consociate “interns,” Will, Steph found it hard to imagine herself with the skill-set to dream, build and connect a company when she was Will’s age, but singlehandedly pursued it.

Steph’s true passion lies in storytelling.

Rudy Heinatz This is a guy who believes in small businesses, and in Steph. He supported her idea full throttle. He knows all-things technology (well…he’s sort of the IT guy in the Consociate offices by default…but we love him for it), all-things number-crunching, and managed to completely paint (one of his least favorite things) Consociate’s new office space with a smile. Rudy actually quit his job as a healthcare executive to put his effort full-time into Consociate (again…believed in the company and the dream with everything he had). Another graduate of Christopher Newport University, Rudy continued on to earn his Masters in Business Administration from William & Mary. Rudy’s true passion is complimentary to Steph’s, but also completely opposite — Rudy loves the analytical and logistical side to the company, creating an excellent partnership, especially paired with Steph and her creative side.

Kelly Marderosian A lover of life, writing, running, and two more of Consociate’s littlest interns, Carter and Peyton, Kelly works as a Communications Associate and Social Media Director at Consociate. What exactly does this mean? Well, Kelly is the brains behind much of the social media, blogging and photography at Consociate — all completed while listening to Jack Johnson’s Pandora station. Seriously. We share an office and music most days of the week! Kelly and Steph go back further than Steph and Rudy. They worked on their high school newspaper together, went to prom together and while drifted apart for a short time after college are back at it again! By the way…did I mention her photography. She has an incredible eye and passion for it.

Michele Harrison Because she draws inspiration from “everything,” you can only imagine how extraordinary her designs are. Michele is Consociate’s Creative Director, graphically bringing stories to life. The logo? Michele did that (with Mark…more on him next). Business cards? Michele, too. She does the designing for clients to make sure their branding represents their story. Certainly, Michele’s inspiration derives from another “little intern,” her daughter, Olivia. Michele also founded and runs an apparel line for humans, but inspired by dogs called “Funny Little Dog.”

Mark Harris Mark put down the microphone from his days in a high school rock band (we like to bring that up whenever we can!) to become the Web Director for Consociate. Mark has had a knack for art his entire life and graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Communication Arts. When he’s not working, you may catch him at Happy Hour cheering on the Chicago Cubs or Washington Redskins. This year, 2014, don’t talk too much about the Redskins, though. They haven’t had their best season. Mark and Steph also went to high school together. Pretty sure she told me he took her to the homecoming dance their sophomore year.

Hannah Gatens That’s me…and I’m switching to third person here.

A recent graduate of Christopher Newport University, Hannah joins Kelly as a Communications Associate for Consociate — blogging, press releases, feature writing. Hailing from Roanoke, Va., she’s recently nestled into Williamsburg to pursue her career at Consociate. Hannah loves all-things writing, cats and beach.

The What.

It’s best to use Steph’s words here. No one tells it like she does.

“Storytelling. It’s an age-old tradition. It’s how we connect to one another. How we teach each other. How we live. And today, it’s also how we do business. Through a blend of marketing, media and management techniques, Consociate uses the rich traditions of storytelling and modern communications to help market businesses.”

The When.

You could say that Consociate really started its launch process in 1998 when Steph and Rudy met and fell in love as Wal-Mart employees. True story. Steph was a cashier and Rudy was the manager of cashiers (he eventually stepped down to work in the Lawn and Garden department because they hit it off quickly). But it wasn’t until recent years that Consociate really took off. Steph officially founded the company in 2011. By 2012 she had left her full time job to invest in the company and the clients who trust her to tell their stories. In 2013, Rudy left his position with a healthcare company and later that same year Kelly came on to the team. By 2014, Hannah (that’s me) joined the team, Michele started out freelancing with Consociate (and is now full time designing) and Mark came on officially.

The Where.

They don’t call it “the land of the life worth living” for nothin’. Gloucester, partly credited with developing the passions that Steph and Rudy share, has created an easy community to love, an environment fit for storytelling and a company that wants to do just that—to tell your story.

Plus, as I mentioned above, Steph, Rudy, Michele, Kelly and Mark were all high school classmates at Gloucester High School, so needless to say, Gloucester holds a special place in each of their hearts.

Consociate’s first office space was, well, Steph and Rudy’s dining room table. It eventually moved into a one-room office just off of Gloucester’s Main Street in the home of one of the town’s newspaper founders, the Glo-Quips. This summer, 2014, it transitioned into what Steph calls the grown up office. On 6553 Main Street, Consociate’s 1800-square-foot office space overlooks Main Street and is a creative space we all love to vibe in.

The other WHERE that’s important to mention here is WHERE the Consociate clients are. And that’s everywhere. Today, clients stretch from New York City to Washington DC, Virginia Beach to Williamsburg, and Richmond to, you guessed it, Gloucester.

The Why.

Why does Consociate tell stories? It’s because stories can change the world. Think about it. If a customer connects to a story and patrons a business, that business can do better. Better business means more jobs. More jobs mean healthier families. Healthier communities. A healthier world. And if you ask Steph she’ll tell you she’s seen change happen in real time.

“I’ve watched as people we work for have a really great month in business and turn around and give back in meaningful ways to the community. What’s meaningful? Thousand dollar donations to food pantries. Donating a fully catered dinner as a fundraiser for a free clinic. Meaningful.”

The How.

In the Consociate office, the talents and passions of the Consociate team are colliding to create something awesome. Looking forward, Consociate is working to become a full-fledged agency. And here’s our short answer as to how we think this can happen: we think that building and strengthening our team and continuing to do great work across a marketing, media and management platform will put us there. The opportunity to tell somebody’s story is privilege.

However, full-fledged storytelling takes some strategy — when you mix the perfect amount of graphic design, web content, relationships, and experiences, it can garner extraordinary stories…and results.

Consociate’s hope is that stories move people to action — to enact change — whether it’s in the White House or your own house, the highlands of Ethiopia, or your own backyard.

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Exploding Coupons and Snapchat


Article by Hannah Gatens

Snap back to late 2012 when Evan Spiegel was a student at Stanford University — the prestigious university near Palo Alto, California. The very campus that housed the likes of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, business moguls Doris Fisher (the co-founder of Gap) and Reed Hastings (the co-founder of Netflix). Sports professionals like John Elway and Tiger Woods passed through Stanford. As did sought-after faces in pop culture like Reese Witherspoon and Sigourney Weaver.

No, that was not an excuse to name all of those folks in a blog post. Rather, it’s meant to set you up to understand that Spiegel will likely go down in history as being among that elite group of achievers who came from Stanford.

Spiegel is the 23-year-old co-founder of Snapchat, one of the most popular (among younger demographics) and booming social apps for sharing photos and videos with friends.

Just like every other form of photo-sharing social media out there, right? Not quite. Snapchat shares photos privately. Yes…privately.

Is there such a thing as privacy when it comes to social media? Well, kind of.

Sure, nothing is completely private, but Snapchat has accomplished some degree of privacy, at least much more so than any other form of social media to date. Previously called “Picaboo,” Snapchat has taken the social media world by storm, but in surprisingly different ways than people have come to expect from social media.

What’s all this matter for a Consociate blog post?

Sidebar: When Stephanie Heinatz hired Hannah Gatens, she did some social snooping to learn more about the Christopher Newport University grad. There wasn’t much on Facebook, Steph said, because she would learn that Hannah, like her 20-something peers, uses Snapchat.

Snapchat has us wondering if it can be used as a marketing platform in the same way that we use other social media outlets — like Facebook or Twitter, Instagram or Google+, and Pinterest — to share information and connect with the community.

What exactly is Snapchat?

Snapchat. Identify it by its yellow, white and black ghost-themed logo.

How does it work? Snapchat is a totally mobile social application (as opposed to Facebook, which you can use on your desk and laptops, too) stands out as different because when a user sends a photo, the receiver has anywhere between one and 10 seconds to view the photo before it is permanently deleted by the app. More on that later.

It also offers the ability to draw on photos, choose different filters, and include the time, the temperature and even how many miles per hour you’re moving. Have you seen Facebook do that?

Who’s using Snapchat?

Young people. Snapchat began recognizing a pattern — the app’s usage starting peaking between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. — just about the time students roll into school and then leave. Snapchat basically created visual notes that students could “pass” back and forth discretely and quietly, and the best part for students (not parents and teachers)? No proof of any Snapchat exchanges, considering the photos terminate themselves in a matter of seconds.

Facebook, admittedly, has seen a decline in teenage users. Today, the average Facebook user is closer to 40, while Snapchat has seen a drastic increase in the number of younger users.

Compared to its beginnings, Snapchat has grown exponentially. As of June 2014, Snapchat has 30 million monthly active users on the app valued at $2 billion and growing.

All told, Snapchat users send 400 million photos and videos each day, matching the daily uploads to Facebook and Instagram combined.

What makes Snapchat different?

First of all, Snapchat claims to be a more intimate and exclusive social media platform. It’s harder to add users — you have to know someone’s username if you want any luck in “snapping” the right person. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, you don’t become Snapchat friends with just anyone. Let me guess, you’re Facebook friends with your grandma, maybe some long-lost elementary school friends, former professors, your yoga instructor at the gym, fellow PTA members, and the list goes on. But Snapchat offers a more intimate social media experience. Most often, users are only “friends” with people they actually talk to — as in, real life talking.

Second, Snapchat is distinguished as young, “hip” and “cool” — I think it’s drawn popularity, in part, because its main demographic is teenagers who can use it privately and away from the hovering eyes of parents or teachers, or their hundreds of Facebook friends with something to say. There is an appeal for younger people to be able to participate in an exchange without having “prying parents or future employers” watching — it’s nice to feel “unreachable” at times. Or so I hear.

Because photos “self destruct” after opening, Snapchat claims to allow people to use digital communication in the same way one used to use the telephone — “a way to communicate with little risk it will come back to bite you.” Right or wrong, it’s one of the reasons it’s become incredibly appealing for high school students looking for jobs or prospective colleges, and especially college graduates and twenty-something’s who are advised to be extra particular with what they share in an online sphere.

That’s not to say that the little risk isn’t there. Because it’s most popular among teenagers, it’s being used in some context to send and receive sexually explicit photos, an exchange that Snapchat is adamantly against.

While Snapchat does understand that there are ways to save the photos transmitted through the app via screenshot or by taking a picture with another camera, Snapchat has made it trickier—and more fun — to save or copy a picture by requiring users to hold a finger on their phone screens to view the image.

Exploding Coupons! Yikes!

In the case of Consociate, we’ve continued to play with Snapchat as a marketing tool. As are other marketing firms out there.

One frozen yogurt company, 16 Handles in New York City, has been dubbed the guinea pig for Snapchat marketing.

Here’s what they did. Their campaign came in three steps. First customers had to “snap” a photo of themselves trying out the yogurt at 16 Handles and send it to the Snapchat company account.

Second, 16 Handles sent a coupon back via their own Snapchat account.

And then? The user would have to wait to open the Snapchat until they were at the 16 Handles cash register and ready to redeem it because — typical Snapchat — you could only see the image for 10 seconds before it self-destructed and automatically deleted.

This particular marketing strategy offered coupons anywhere between 16 to 100 percent off the frozen yogurt purchase.

This practice, to some, has been coined as “exploding coupons.”

What does Snapchat cost companies?

Though Snapchat is a free app to users, like Facebook, Snapchat can charge businesses when they set up branded accounts. The New Orleans Saints, Acura and Taco Bell are a couple of companies using Snapchat to leverage their brand to their widest audience. The Saints use the app to show behind-the-scenes footage of the professional football team. Taco Bell and Acura debut new products and share information with their most loyal followers first.

Snapchat’s specific design — the privacy protection and disappearing images — are its core strength, and undoubtedly its strongest advertising flaw. Its ability to advertise is basically crippled because it doesn’t possess the target advertising functions that social media relies on.

Although, forget those aspects for just a moment, and recall that Snapchat has a major advantage over other social media outlets. Users have to keep their finger on a photo or video in order to view it, meaning that Snapchat is able to tell advertisers who do use Snapchat as a means to market, with “absolute certainty” whether their ads were viewed — “a useful data point in the metric-driven world of digital advertising.”

While Consociate hasn’t integrated Snapchat with any clients at this point, we’re testing out some ideas and will be back soon to report on our beta tests!

Learn more about Snapchat by visiting the app online at https://www.snapchat.com.






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Warrior Cyber Monks at Sera-Brynn Offer Security Advice to Consociate Clients

cyber security

Article By Hannah Gatens

Sixty percent. Sound like a lot? It is. Especially when you’re talking about the percentage of small companies that are unable to sustain their business within six months of a cyber crime attack, which according to the U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance, is the case.

Often times, companies aren’t able to recover financially, or from a reputation perspective, once consumer information is compromised or data is breached.

The best way to prevent a cyber attack?

Our friends at Sera-Brynn, a Suffolk, Va.-based cyber security firm, tell us there’s no better way than through knowledge, preparation and implementation of prevention measures.

And that’s exactly what Sera-Brynn does.

Consociate has been fortunate in recent years to work with a variety of businesses looking to expand their services and presence online. It’s at the heart of much of what we do.

Whether it’s bringing more attention to their company via content marketing to enhance their visibility on search engines, engaging with current and prospective customers via social media or driving awareness through inbound marketing tactics, the digital world is no longer the next frontier for businesses. It’s today’s frontier.

Recently, John Kipp of Sera-Brynn sat down with Consociate and broke down cyber security and why it’s important, especially for small businesses engaging in social marketing or e-commerce.

Cyber Security – What is it?

Cyber security is the mechanism that maximizes an ability to grow commerce, communications, community and content in a connected world…SAFELY.

Cyber threats come can come from anywhere, Sera-Brynn writes on its web site, to include hackers, malware, phishing, social engineering, and even insiders such as rogue or oblivious employees as well as contracted vendors.


Note the commerce comment above.

Many companies, any that accept credit card payments to be precise, need to meet the qualifications of a Payment Card Industry (PCI). PCI is a security standard that companies using e-commerce need to comply with. Basically, Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, Discover, and the Japanese-based JCB, banded together and created their own set of security features, and anyone who stores information with a credit card will have to comply with those security standards. Security is part of that compliance.

“It’s obviously a good idea to implement cyber security to protect customers and their financial information,” Kipp said.

“A main thing that drives business owners with cyber security is protecting themselves from lawsuits, litigation and fines. If someone steals a bunch of clothes, a company can just make an insurance claim, but if somebody steals customer credit card data, it gets much worse because a business will have to tell their customers and, of course, it gets extremely expensive.”

Cyber Attacks On Networks and “Zero Day”

Heard the warning not to click on links in emails from people you don’t recognize?

Cyber threats can manifest themselves in different ways, but commonly, people are sent “bogus” links to click on and once they do, malware gets loaded.

In best-case scenarios, antivirus software will catch it, but many times a “zero day” is attached. This is not a comic book title with bad guys and super heroes, even though it sounds like that.

Rather, a “zero day” is a virus that antivirus software doesn’t yet know about and therefore can’t fight.

For a period of time, before “zero day” viruses can be identified, many people will get “zapped” by it. A “zero day” is extremely difficult to catch, Kipp said, because you need something that will basically monitor network behavior in order to catch it. That level of monitoring isn’t always available, especially for small businesses.

What can you do yourself?

Simple ways for businesses – from those on Main Street AND Wall Street – to practice cyber security include:

  • Protecting files with a password
  • Being creative with passwords
  • Always locking computers by pressing CTRL+ALT+DELETE and hitting “ENTER” before walking away
  • Not downloading files from unknown sources
  • Always checking credentials of anyone working on your computers
  • Using caution when opening email attachments
  • Securing wireless routers
  • Not letting spammers see your “out of office” replies

Get Tested

While these tips barely scratch the surface of things businesses can do to remain as secure as possible, there are many more ways to arm yourself. Like testing how secure you are BEFORE an attack happens. That’s something that Kipp and Sera-Brynn offers.

It’s called a vulnerability assessment, which according to their web site, is “accomplished through the use of products, tools, and techniques to identify, document, and assess vulnerabilities on servers, workstations, mobile technology, and other devices on a network.”

Regardless the size of a network, Sera-Brynn can assess all the systems, data, and applications on it for vulnerabilities. They provided a detailed report of any vulnerabilities they find and from there, Sera-Brynn prioritizes them based on the level of risk they pose to the business and provide solutions to either eliminate or mitigate them through compensating controls.

All About Prevention and Protection Of You…AND YOUR CUSTOMERS!

If companies do takes steps to protect themselves, their networks and their businesses, and a cyber threat does occur, they will undoubtedly benefit in the long run.

“Say, for example, that a business is up-to-date with compliance laws and they do get breached and people are after them with law suits, well that company can say we did everything we were supposed to,” Kipp said.

That’s what any company wants to be able to tell their customers if they undergo a breach for any reason. There could be more options for breached companies who took all of the steps to protect their information.

To learn more, to ask questions or to get some help, give Kipp and his team a call. Tell them we sent you.

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Tawn, Riding Elephants, Cheering on Auburn and Ms. Peyton Smith

Peyton Smith five dogs

Profile by Hannah Gatens, Photos Courtesy of Peyton Smith’s Fun Facebook Profile


Which of the following do you think could be true about Consociate’s winter intern, Peyton Smith?

  1. She wants her next vacation to be somewhere she can ride an elephant.
  2. Her dream job is to work as an addition to Kathy Lee and Hoda’s 10 o’clock hour of The Today Show.
  3. Her nickname is Tawn.

All of the above!

Twenty-one-year-old Peyton was born and raised in Gloucester, Va. where she lived with her mom, dad, brother and five wild dogs (yep…those right up there). Gloucester, if you don’t know, sits just east of Richmond and west of Virginia Beach.

Peyton Smith Auburn Horse

Currently a junior at Auburn University, Peyton is studying Communications and working towards a Business minor — a pairing that could very well add that third chair to the 10 o’clock hour slot she’s chasing.

“I wanted to major in Communications because I knew it was a skill that many employers look for and was attracted to learning about a variety of topics that make me marketable,” Peyton said.

When deciding on Auburn, Peyton knew she wanted to explore options outside of Virginia, but never knew how much she could fall in love with a school until she stepped foot on Auburn’s campus.

At school, Peyton interns with the Media Relations team for the Athletic Department and is part of the equestrian team. Yes…she does have one championship ring!

Peyton Smith Auburn Champ Ring

She’s also a mentor for the Auburn Leadership Institute that works with freshmen and transfer student-athletes.

As for that nickname, “Tawn” comes from the sweet, slow Southern way to say “Pey-Tawn.” Even her coaches have taken a liking to it.

Peyton found her way to the Conscociate offices this winter when she came home to be with family for the holidays and has been busy helping the team map out media plans for 2015, completing social media audits of client accounts to help make 2015 even better for them and their social marketing campaigns and stretching her writing muscles, working on blog posts and bios on clients for new web sites under development.

Consociate Christmas Party Picture

“She folded right into the team as if she’s worked with us all from the beginning and as if she’s full time,” said Stephanie Heinatz, founder of Consociate. “We have a feeling she’ll be seeking an internship soon in the bustling Atlanta area, but if she makes it home again this summer, we have a desk ready for her. She’s worked hard and eagerly…while I’m guessing a lot of college students are taking time to relax over the holiday break.”

That work ethic, Peyton said, comes from her dad. You can’t worry about things out of your control, he had told her. But you can work hard.

“I try to remember and live by this advice,” Peyton said.

This advice, Peyton said, will carry her through her remaining time at Auburn, additional internships and well into the future, which, if all goes according to plan, will take her somewhere that includes an adventure putting her on top of an elephant.

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