Web Design Blog : Toolkit Websites

Web Design Blog

Toolkit Websites iPad Mini Competition

Merry Christmas to you from everyone here at Toolkit Websites.

You should have received our Christmas card in the post which has details of our fantastic competition to win an iPad Mini!

With the card is our referral "cheque" that has information on our referral scheme where you can earn yourself a free £50 Amazon Voucher!

We are delighted to be running a competition over the festive period to win an iPad Mini

For your chance to win please visit Facebook and enter our competition

You can find out more information about this competition by following us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and keeping up to date with our Blog

We look forward to receiving your entry and hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Toolkit Websites are expert website designers Southampton, Hampshire, UK. get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.
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How secure are your passwords?

If you had broken into the United States nuclear missile system at the height of the Cold War and had it in your mind to – as the popular hacker/paranoia movie War Games had it – play global thermonuclear war you’d have needed to guess a password.

And, if faced with cracking what must, surely, have been one of the most secure systems on the planet you just slammed in: ‘00000000’ then the world as we know it would have ended.

Hopefully that particular procedure is now much, much more secure. But, as the numbers of passwords we need to navigate our online lives multiply so we’re forced into a compromise between safe and memorable.

Safe is a long meaningless string of upper and lower case letters mixed with numbers and special symbols which is unique to one site. Memorable is your favourite football team and the year they last one a title with a zero replacing an O or 1s for Is.

Hackers prefer memorable. Because memorable is predictable and the software they use relies on spotting patterns to crack passwords. Every time there’s a big leak of passwords they celebrate at Cyber Crime University because they can learn more about how we tend to act. And, yes each leak confirms that people still use ‘password’.

According to a recent Guardian article on online security, at 1,000 guesses per second a totally random five letter string can be cracked in three and three-quarter hours. A 20 letter string? That takes 6.5 thousand trillion centuries.

A recent Telegraph piece on the same subject reported that you can come home from any high street store with a machine capable of making 8.2 million guesses a second.

So there’s an arms race on.

It’s clear that following those well worn rules will make your passwords safer and, despite what they say, you may find that writing them down is the only option. If you do, then indulge in a little cryptology yourself rather than creating a document on your desktop called ‘passwords’.

And, be prepared to apply those rules across the board. Even a site that doesn’t seem that big a deal – an online game for example – can be a chink in your online armour. A now notorious hacking attack on a Wired writer was enabled by combining a jigsaw of information from Gmail, Amazon and Apple accounts.

Brian Cheswick, an online security expert, is an advocate of writing down passwords. This will not please your bank and as Cheswick warns; if there’s a key logger on your machine you’re buggered anyway.

Otherwise, he suggests using one of ‘password wallet’ services now springing up like LastPass, 1Password or the freeware Keepass.

Toolkit Websites are expert web designers Southampton, Hampshire, UK. get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.  
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America love their social media according to a survey by Nielsen

Americans spent 121.1 billion minutes logged onto social media sites in just one month this year according to the latest survey from Nielsen the kings of business number crunching.

In American billions, the figure for the time spent on social media in July 2012 equates to 230,000 years.

There isn’t a similar piece of data for the UK but it’s a fair bet that the exponential growth in social media use is being mirrored on this side of the Atlantic too.

In July 2011, Nielsen found Americans logged on to Facebook and the like for 88.1 billion minutes. That’s an increase in time spent on social media of 32.7 billion minutes.

Facebook is still the giant of the social media web despite a 4 per cent drop in unique visitors from the same time last year.

The second placed site might be a surprise: it’s Blogger, the Google blogging platform. That too has seen a small drop off in users, while WordPress its blogging rival is up 10% in unique users. Twitter shoots up by 13% and is the second most used site.

The big movers are relative newcomers. Google+ is up 80% and is the seventh most popular social media site. The bump in numbers looks impressive, but in July 2011 Google+ was fresh out of the box and open to the public for the first time, so it’s bound to have shot up from those invite-only beta testers who were its first users.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is Pinterest. The site’s whole business model was questioned when it opened for business – would it breach copyright law – but people seem to like it. User numbers are up 1,047% in a year and those users are spending 1.25 billion minutes on the site, 720 million minutes accessing it from mobiles and 120 million minutes using its smart phone app.

Tumblr is growing fast too.

The growth of mobile phone and tablet browsing is another big story from the report. All the sites have seen a massive increase in the number of users accessing them from phones – Twitter, which could have been designed with smart phones in mind, has been particularly well served by the move to portable computers.

Social media sites are now the most used type of website in the USA.

There’s a host of other data in the report, and some of it is rather puzzling: American Asians are the ethnic group most likely to buy after seeing social media ads while Europeans web users are the least likely than most to talk about TV on social media while we’re watching it, for example. But any business user will be fascinated to learn that one in three social media users would rather talk to a company through their social media sites than by phone. And, Pinterest is proving to be the female social media site with a minimum 70/30 split in women’s favour depending on how the site is accessed.

You can see more of the report for free here. http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/social/2012/

Toolkit Websites are professional website designers Southampton, Hampshire, UK. get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.    
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2012 is the year of malware, reports security experts Sophos

As the year draws to a close, the annual round ups are coming thick and fast and in the bad news column we can name 2012 the ‘year of malware’ according to cyber security experts Sophos. It’s also the year that hackers followed the browsing world onto social media.

Sophos reckons that 80% of hacking attacks online were enabled by malicious code inserted into legitimate sites. And as the world goes social, the bad guys are following closely behind. The rise of new platforms and languages is making maintaining security more complex.

Hackers have always been inventive, and social media offers a great new way to test out their skills. One clever way to exploit our worries about social media saw hackers setting up a Twitter account. Once the account has some followers the criminals send a direct message to them all warning them that an embarrassing photo of them has been posted to Facebook. Click the link and you’re infected.

It’s not just clever psychology though; hackers now have their own products. Blackhole is a software package made in Russia, which helps its owners produce their own malware. It’s frighteningly easy to use – all you need is a website that you can convince people to visit and Blackhole does the rest. It’s so popular that 27% of the all the malware is believed to come from Blackhole. Worryingly, the sellers of these ‘crime packs’ have promised customers they’re going to be trying even harder next year.

Internationally, Honk Kong, Taiwan and the UAE suffer most cyber attacks, while the safest countries are Sweden, Japan and Norway.

Platform wise, Android is becoming an increasing target for hackers. And, the Apple user’s boast that their machine never gets viruses may be about to be silenced, sales are growing and the hackers are starting to wake up to Macs too.

Governments and terrorists are also developing their online weaponry and the spectre of a ‘cyber 9/11’ is being raised.

However, there is some good news. Sophos says IT professionals are getting smarter too and praises law enforcement agencies for some major victories in 2012.

The next challenges, says Sophos, will come as cloud computing comes of age. As surely as night follows day, the hackers will target the cloud too. 

You can read the report in full here.


Toolkit Websites are professional web designers Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.
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Pinterest business account

Social media is a fluid environment businesses need to be nimble to keep up with the latest development. This year that’s meant joining Pinterest, the online scrapbook and image sharing site that’s shooting up the user number rankings at an impressive rate. On December 9, the Obama Whitehouse signed up for the site, which is a marker of sorts.

Another development is the site’s launch of business accounts. Lots of businesses already use Pinterest and it’s a natural fit for things like fashion and interior design.

John Brand of Inc.com has some useful tips on how to use the site to interact with customers.

The first is to put some time in and focus on the best Pinterest users, who get the most followers and repins of their images.

Secondly, take advantage of the site’s simplicity. It’s already a design classic so don’t mess with it. Brand cites some impressive figures for extra web traffic driven to business home pages from Pinterest.

Thirdly, don’t forget to integrate with the ‘real’ world. Promote your Pinterest page in your premises and promote your premises on your Pinterest page. You should also promote this new social medium through the existing ones – send Facebook users to Pinterest when its supremely visual style is the best fit for your message.

Fourthly, daily pins are a great tool says Brand. A memorable slogan or design will get you plenty of views and repins.

Don’t be too self-interested is the next tip. Experienced users reckon that boards which are just about selling aren’t popular, so if you see something that another company is doing and you like it, then pin it.

Number six is to do a bit of piggybacking. It’s a technique that’s familiar from Twitter and it seems to work here too, so follow the most popular boards in your business area.

Tip seven from Brand is to be selective and stay true to your business brand.

Recent research on social media suggests that businesses are already struggling to keep up with the demands of their online presence so adding another should be considered carefully. But if you’re an image-led business and have lots of female customers then Pinterest could be a valuable new focus for your business.

Toolkit Websites are professional web designers based in Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.
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Five Social Media Tips

The proliferation of social media platforms is a challenge to businesses who need to focus their marketing effort where it will have most effect, while avoiding getting bogged down in the detail of using these powerful interactive platforms.

Scott Lake founded Source Metrics, a social media platform that aims to simplify social media marketing and in the process produce real return on investment.

He’s come up with five simple core concepts for managing your social media marketing.

1. The first thing Lake advises is to set clear, defined and measurable goals for your campaign. Decide what you want your social media marketing campaign to achieve and how you will measure whether it’s achieved them or not. Sales leads generated, he says, are a good solid way of measuring a campaign’s success.

2. Secondly, you should make sure you’ve got something to give your customers in return for their email address or Facebook ‘like’. A free gift is great, of course, but if you can inform, entertain or otherwise engage your audience that can be enough too. Pick something that will dovetail to your own product though; that way you’ll interest the right people – everyone wants a free cinema ticket, but do they also want your product.

3. Your campaign’s landing page is key. This is where your potential customers arrive after clicking your marketing link and it’s where interest is converted into solid information so it’s worth taking some time over its look and feel. Lake recommends designing your own page rather than using Facebook itself and even designing a different page for clickers arriving from each social media platform.

4. At number four, we’re ready to launch. Lake advises promoting your offer with more traditional marketing techniques – there’s no reason a print advert can’t send people to your Facebook page. Email lists he says are still great marketing tools – try putting a link to your homepage at the end of an email newsletter and, according to Lake, be amazed at the upsurge in traffic. Again, he recommends tailoring your campaign to each social media site, both as a means of keeping your message fresh and as a testing bed for different posting styles.

5. Finally, Lake recommends the use of shortened links to track the success of your campaign. Shortened links customised to each part of your campaign, or the platform on which you post it, will allow you to measure the effect of all your hard work. And, you should react to this information as it arrives says Lake – if a particular posting time, social platform or message style is working use this information to cash in.

Lake is pretty clear about what the potential results of a successful social media campaign are. He writes: “These leads are the most valuable data your brand will encounter: You need to treat them with the utmost respect and strategically lead them through your sales cycle.”

You can find Scott Lake on Twitter as @scottica. 

Toolkit Websites are bespoke web designers Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.  
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Website of the Week - Care @ Home Newbury

Care @ Home provide efficient and effective care to meet the needs and aspirations of the service users in a caring manner.

The client wanted to redesign their existing website they had with us to apply a modern design. Along side this we also refreshed their logo to introduce a new colour scheme.

Included within the redesign was the migration from our old platform to our new webkit platform. The webkit upgrade has been written with the latest programming languages. This upgrade works in parallel with your website to improve loading times across all internet browsers plus much more.

As the new design is on our webkit platform we were able to introduce bespoke forms. This client wanted to have an enquires form on their contact page to capture all the information they need.

When the client was asked to rate the service that we provided, he said that "Thats great all good"
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Christmas content for festive sales

ClickThrough Marketing is a conversion-optimising specialist and they’ve put together a guide to the best ways to promote your business at Christmas.

The first thing the agency’s Ali Harris confirms is that quality content is now the big thing in online marketing and this should be kept in mind whatever you do.

The good news is that taking PR online makes it a lot easier for businesses, even small businesses, to use. Online PR lasts longer, there are a multitude of platforms on which to spread your message and many of these are highly specialised and therefore provide better access to likely spenders. It’s also a lot easier to measure the effects of your efforts in likes, page views or retweets.

But don’t neglect the traditional media, which still has a lot of power, and remember that a good idea is a good idea on and offline.

Some of Ali’s tips for good Christmas press releases include:

  1. Top 10s or end of year lists, which are beloved of both the traditional and new media. 
  2. After you’ve summed up the year just about to pass, try to predict what’s ahead – it doesn’t have to be accurate but make it fun and likely to start conversations. And don’t forget the future includes your own New Year deals.
  3. Shout about any seasonal charity linkups and get a link back from the charity.
  4. Even a Christmas competition is worth a press release, and any business can do this.

When it comes to your social media marketing, consider sharing some advice that will get shared. Make your profile useful: Christmas gift-wrapping advice is always handy. Make sure potential customers are in no doubt about your Christmas opening hours, delivery deadlines and when you’re back in business for the New Year sales. If the snow does come down, make sure you’re prepared and that your worried customers know the latest news too.

Social media is all about talking to people so engage in interesting conversations with your followers. Don’t forget to let the Scrooges amongst them get involved with some fun chatter about the downside of the season of singed tinsel and dropping needles.

Harris also spends a good deal of time talking about correctly tagging the images on your site to make sure they show up in Google image searches. This is particularly important if you work in a visual or design-orientated business. Tagging images as Christmas gift ideas will help them show up when the world is desperately searching for something to spend on. .

Harris warns that the window for online Christmas shopping seems to be getting shorter. You need all your Christmas content up and running by the first week of December. However, there are two new shopping days thanks to the Internet. Shoppers log on with their shiny new gadgets on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and start buying all over again – particularly good news if you sell add-ons and accessories for their new phone or tablet.

There’s an awful lot more in ClickThrough’s webinar, which you can listen to in full here.

But, there seems to be a strong, consistent message coming through on online marketing and SEO at the moment, summed up by Harris as: “People share stuff they think is good, or interesting, or unusual, and Google rewards originality and relevancy, as well as interest in your content. Don’t cut corners.”

Link to webinar:

Toolkit Websites are bespoke website designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.
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Going local in a global world

Google is a globe-encircling titan of the internet, so it’s interesting that the world’s homepage is putting a lot of focus on making its services more localised. This should be good news for small businesses who want to use pay per click (PPC) advertising effectively.

Google announced in November that its city-level targeting for AdWords would be rolled out to nine new countries, meaning that advertisers in 43 countries can now target their ads to specific cities.

The buzzword for this is Geo-targeting, which is something small businesses have been doing naturally and with no need for new terminology for centuries.

If you’re offering a product or service that can only be delivered in one or two locations then geo-targeting is essential if you’re not to waste money online. A Edinburgh window cleaner who cycles on his rounds doesn’t want to pop up when a man with dirty windows in Eastbourne goes online looking for a wash and wipe.

But as well as putting necessary limits on your marketing, localised PPC can help to expand your business.

By targeting your PPC at new areas and customising your AdWords content – bear in mind languages and currencies – you can even find customers who don’t even speak the same language as you.

Setting up a new website for each new territory is expensive and fraught with problems. This sort of targeted PPC however, can give the illusion of international reach – and crucially, local sensitivity – without that hassle. Simply translating ads into different languages for different users, which with this level of targeting you can now do, will at the very least reduce waste spend showing incomprehensible ads.

If you’re thinking of growing into a new territory then this city-level targeting provides a great way to test the waters without ending up with just a few orders which are costly to deliver and may not lead to a sustainable expansion.

This is particularly the case if it’s a whole new country you’ve got your eyes on. Pick a couple of test markets to gauge the interest in your product without wasting paid clicks.

The green campaigners used to ask us to ‘think global and act local’ but as it has so many times before, Google has turned this maxim on its head.

Toolkit Websites are bespoke web designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.
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Ever wondered how people are viewing your website?

 So, you’ve got your website and you probably think it looks great. But is it doing what it’s supposed to do, which is bringing in cash from new buyers and keeping existing customers coming back for more.

Digital marketing agency Massiv’s Tyrone Probert has been explaining some of the whys of website design. It’s all been worked out with some clever research which tracks the eyes of website viewers.

Probert writes: “Design needs to be visually pleasing to the eye but functional too. How do you get your visitors to transform into customers? How do you get them to navigate their way through the buying process? Good architecture, design and an understanding of how people interact with websites all help you make sales.”

He’s distilled the research into 15 simple lessons, all of which can be easily assessed against your own website.

Here they are:

  • People look at headlines more than pictures.
  • As with books, we naturally start at the top left hand corner of a site.
  • Viewers tend to tune out banners.
  • All those beautifully designed fonts may be a waste – people ignore them.
  • Once viewers get to the bottom of a web page they’re generally just scanning.
  • Short paragraphs hold the attention better than long ones.
  • The ads which get most views are at the top or on the left of your page.
  • Putting an ad within or just below attention grabbing content means more people look at it.
  • People are more likely to look at pictures if they’re large.
  • Menus and buttons are looked at for longer than anything else.
  • Even better than short paragraphs are lists – did you skip down to this list?
  • Some readers will just ignore large areas of text.
  • Headlines help focus attention on text.
  • Negative - or blank – space works, so don’t be afraid of ‘gaps’.
  • Menus are most effective when they’re towards the top of your page.

While your eyes should follow these rules too, when you look at your own website you’re going to bring an insider’s perspective and pick up on things a casual customer may never see. Try looking at a website you would use as a customer and see how you read it.

Toolkit Websites are bespoke website designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.
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How much time does your business spend on Social Media?

Vertical Response (VR) work with small businesses and they asked 500 of their clients about their use of social media.

The lessons Massiv have taken from this research is that: small businesses are struggling to keep on top of social media; they’re sticking with the established (essentially Facebook and Twitter) sites and are slow to move to Pinterest or Google+; content is valued, but finding the time to produce it is a problem, and companies are willing to shell out for software that helps them manage their social media marketing.

Let’s go a little further into the detail then. It’s worth bearing in mind that the respondents to this survey were willing to pay for the services of a specialist digital marketing firm so we can assume they’re quite web aware already.

When it comes to that precious time, 43% of businesses were spending more than six hours on their social media. The majority of those – a quarter – spent between six and 10 hours and only seven per cent spent more than 21 hours.

Business owners were spending much less of their own time on social media, but fully one third of them wanted to spend less of it.

It won’t be news to find that two thirds of respondents were spending more time on social media marketing this year than last.

There are two giants in social media and business use reflects that with 90% of VR’s survey group using Facebook and almost 70% of them maintaining a Twitter feed. Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+ are, for the moment, dragging far behind.

Blogging is still popular, with 55% of VR’s small businesses posting to their own blog and 16% of them spending more than three hours a week doing so.

That ties in with the finding that sourcing content and then posting it takes up most of the time spent on social media. Answering questions takes up the smallest amount of this social media time, less than is spent on checking out the competition’s online efforts.

As well as time, businesses are spending more cash on their social media. In this survey four times as many businesses have upped their social media budgets as have cut them.

If there’s help available – and we recently wrote about Adobe’s new social media management system – then businesses are willing to spend on it. Thirty six per cent of businesses paid for social media publishing or analytic tools and of these more than half spent more than $26 a month on them.

Toolkit Websites are bespoke web designers based in Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.  
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Don’t panic! They can’t turn the Internet off

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has reassured the world that there is no ‘off switch’ for the Internet. 

While some parents might be cursing the news and online satirists have had fun imagining what the thing might look like it’s an important announcement for those interested in web freedom. 

The idea of the so-called off switch is rooted in the Arab Spring of 2010. This series of uprisings, the effects of which are still being felt, swept away regimes including those of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. 

Social media was credited with helping to spread the message of freedom. In response, governments moved to control Internet access. As Wikipedia puts it: ‘on the night of January 27, 2011 the Egyptian government under President Hosni Mubarak shut down the Internet’.

This shutdown was achieved as Internet service providers withdrew their interfaces with the outside world. Other countries also blacked out Internet traffic, some by the rather less tech-savvy method of taking axes to data cables. 

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, speaking at the launch of the Web Index league table in London, said the way the Internet worked meant it couldn’t currently be crippled. 

He said: "The way the Internet is designed is very much as a decentralised system. At the moment, because countries connect to each other in lots of different ways, there is no one off-switch, there is no central place where you can turn it off.” 

But he warned that governments could act together to centralise the web and urged users to protest should they start to. 

The Web Index aims to rank countries by the extent and effect of the web on their citizens. Sweden was top with a score of 100, with the UK in third with 93.83 just behind the United States of America. Yemen comes bottom of the 61 country list with a score of 0. North Korea, which has never allowed its citizens access to the internet, doesn’t feature. 

Over a century ago, E. M. Forster’s prescient sci-fi story The Machine Stops imagined a future of wired up but essentially isolated humans linked by a machine. When the machine stops, civilisation goes with it.

Toolkit Websites are quality web designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.
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Website of the Week - Aquaspec

Aquaspec are a company who provide marine safety lights. To match the cutting edge products they produce, they wanted a modern and minimalist website. The main focus was to be on the products, with strong imagery used throughout.

To tie in with their other promotional material, the website was to have a colour scheme of black and silver, with accents of yellow as per their products. It was also important to the client that they were able to edit the website completely in the Toolkit.

As this was a redesign client, we also included their migration to our new Web kit Platform in the redesign. In addition, Pro Features Pack was used to achieve the dropdown menus and headers per page.

One premium page dressing and two page dressings were used to adhere to the strict brief that the client set out.

Finally, we created three bespoke ten field forms, as it was important to the client that the exact information they needed was gathered from their customers.

When the client was asked to rate the service that we provided, he said that "As ever the Toolkit Website's team have been efficient and diligent in the smooth project management of the AquaSpec website. They have worked hard to deliver the website within the brief and have been very flexible in quickly accommodating a number of revisions throughout the process."

For more news from Toolkit Websites, click here.

Toolkit Websites are bespoke website designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.
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MailChimp for Small Businesses

Email marketing has always been a contentious subject in the business world, with it’s success rate, cost and the best methods always under the microscope. Mailchimp attempted to put a stop to this debate with a low-cost email marketing and newsletter distribution platform, incorporating the facility to track the progress of your newsletter. The idea of creating and managing your own email marketing campaign may seem like a lot of effort and for those a little bit technophobic a bit daunting, but with Mailchimp they will run you through the whole process in a step-by-step manner, detailing the requirements.
You can create a newsletter using the existing templates or create one entirely from scratch, either way Mailchimp provides a great platform to create engaging newsletters that will reach your target audience effectively whilst ensuring you incorporate the right content and links to get the best response from the recipients. The beauty of Mailchimp is that it provides a lot of the benefits of hiring professional email marketing companies to manage your campaign with nowhere near the same level of cost but a higher degree of control over all aspects. You can start using Mailchimp free of charge and if you have less than 500 target recipients and plan to send no more than one newsletter a month, then it is a cheaper alternative than a paid for supported service such as our own Toolkit Broadcast. Predictably there are certain benefits you don’t get with the free version but generally it can provide a good option for those wanting to try the service out, those with small mailing lists or those who do not require full support. For those who do not satisfy this criteria, our Toolkit Broadcast service is a better option.
Arguably the best thing about Mailchimp and other Email Marketing solutions is the comprehensive analysis of your newsletter and the impact it has had on those it was sent to. The report that can be viewed online or downloaded as a standalone document will show basic figures such as the number of email recipients and the amount of those who were sent it who successfully received it. In addition it will feature other really useful facts such as the number of people who actually opened the email, the number of clicks the newsletter got for the links on it, the number of times it is forwarded onto others by the recipients (and the number of those that subsequently open it) and the total amount of times the emails are opened (to analyse multiple views). Just like our own Toolkit Broadcast service it can even tell you the date and time (accurate to the minute) that the newsletter was last viewed.
One of the difficulties for businesses in the past was assessing how successful the newsletters are and how well received they were, but with the comprehensive reports produced by the likes of Toolkit Broadcast and Mailchimp it has given businesses the ability to view up-to-the-minute statistics on the success rate of the newsletters. They may be disappointed with this and decide not to pursue it in future or they may be surprised by how well the newsletters have worked out - either way they will be ideally placed to make an informed decision on how best to go forward with their email marketing efforts.
Toolkit Websites are web designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.
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The end of the click?


The way we interact with our computers is changing thanks first to touch screens and now a new laser and camera interface that takes us another step towards the man/machine.

Young people are growing up learning how to use computers from an ever-earlier age. But increasingly their first experience of manipulating microprocessors is by pointing, touching, pinching and swiping.

Now a prototype from Cambridge’s Microsoft Research UK turns the user’s hand itself into a computer remote control. Called the Digit, the device is worn on the user’s wrist. LEDS and lasers shine from this bracelet and cameras record the movement of the fingers.

The team behind the project – which has been born out of Microsoft’s own Xbox Kinect system – say they can measure finger movements with an accuracy of one hundredth of a centimetre.

In its current form, unveiled this month on Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Digit is still quite clunky, but in time should be wristwatch sized.

And Digit isn’t alone in trying to kill off – or at least significantly reduce the influence of – the mouse. A desk-mounted system called the Leap Motion Sensor is also in development.

And, the Google giant is also part of the picture thanks to its Project Glass. This futuristic piece of face furniture puts a computer display directly in front of the user’s eyes. It’s the sort of thing seen in military aviation in the form of the heads up display, but looks far more like something you’d get from Specsavers than the Defence Systems and Equipment International exhibition.

By combining the two and linking us ever closer to our computers we could, paradoxically, be freed from the click of the mouse.

Already, Digit has been used to control games and to help kids who use sign language to interact with a computer. But, it could go much further according to Thad Starner, who’s in charge of Google’s Project Glass, who named it “a symbiosis of man and machine that we haven't seen before".

He said: “Having access to data on a split-second basis makes you more powerful, more in control of your life. This is going to get us to the stage where we use systems without thinking.”

You can see a video demonstration of Digit here. (Video link)

Toolkit Websites are business web designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Get in touch today and see how we can help your business grow.
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Cameron’s finally a tweeter

Asked to comment on Twitter David Cameron once famously said, ‘too many tweets, make a tw*t’, giving the headline writers a lovely open goal to aim at when he finally signed up for the social network during this month’s Conservative party conference.

To give the Conservative leader’s answer to the original question – which predates his arrival in number 10 - more substance, he said he was worried about politicians communicating without thinking first.

It’s probably fair to assume that Mr Cameron’s Twitter feed is managed to within an inch of its life. From his first tweet on October 6, which referenced that earlier dismissal, to October 19, the Prime Minister unleashed just 15 tweets. All were very much what you’d expect from an account belonging to someone whose every character will be poured over by opponents and journalists. His use of the #welovetheNHS tag became a news story, but anyone wanting to get to know the Prime Minister personally will be rather disappointed.

Asked to discuss the new account for the BBC Alastair Campbell – the Labour former spin doctor – said the PM ‘didn’t really understand Twitter’. He pointed out that the 35 accounts he’s followed all belong to fellow Tories. Campbell said no British politicians were yet on top of a medium he says is playing a vital role in the current American presidential elections.

But there’s no denying that Mr Cameron has done well in the numbers game. He racked up 100,000 followers in a matter of days, forcing bookmakers to pay out (who bets on this sort of stuff?!) and slash the odds on him getting 1,000,000 followers by year’s end.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has 168,203 followers but with well over 1,000 tweets to his name is a relative veteran.

The Fanpage list puts our Prime Minister at number eight in its chart of most followed politicians (although this uses the official @Number10gov account, which is much older and busier than Mr Cameron’s personal feed).

At number one and two are Messrs Obama and Romney and the other highest ranked British politician (despite not really being a politician) is Sarah Brown, the last Prime Minister’s wife.

No one has really found a way of measuring what those numbers mean in terms that politicians care about, ie votes.

The Klout score, which attempts to measure ‘influence’, has been widely criticised but in the absence of anything else it’s worth looking at. Reorder the politicians’ rankings by Klout scores and we Brits vanish from the top 20 altogether, replaced by an army of American politicos with the Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger tucking in behind the two presidential hopefuls.
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Dorkbot worm attacks Skype users


A new – and rather chilling – word has entered the lexicon of online security, ransomware, and it’s thought to be threatening Skype users.

A worm known as Dorkbot uses the Skype instant messaging system to install malicious software on users’ machines.

The message Skype users have been asked to look out for is: “lol is this your new profile pic”. Clicking on the link in the message will download Trojan malware.

A Trojan gives the bad guys control of your computer, who can recruit it to a botnet. Botnets of controlled machines can be used for all sorts of nefarious purposes by hackers. At the comparatively benign end of the scale your machine may be used to send out email spam or take part in an attempt to overload a website to cause it to crash.

Hackers with access to your machine and key logging software will be well on the way to breaking your passwords. And, one of the first things most botnet computers will do is to send out the bait message to everyone in your address book trying to snag more victims.

A relatively recent addition to the malware arsenal is the ransomware attacks, which according to McAfee have increased in number by 50% between the first and second quarters of this year.

In a world of sometimes bewildering acronyms, there’s something reassuringly old-fashioned and simple about ransomware. The attackers take control of your machine and demand a payment to return it you with your valuable data untouched. Some versions threaten to make public any questionable browsing history or illegal downloads.

Skype, which is now owned by Microsoft, has said that its users should update to the latest version and that it is taking the issue very seriously. The advice that you should keep your antivirus software fully up to date is always worth repeating too.

Defeating the Dorkbot worm is, to those in the know, relatively simple, but for the average home user or humble desk jockey it’s a frightening experience and one that is sure to cost infected businesses, at the very least, time.

One of the beauties of Skype is that it’s free and, as a result, has millions of users. This makes it as attractive to mischievous or criminal users as any of the other burgeoning social networks. Companies who use these networks would do well to make sure their employees are fully up to date on how best to avoid clicking bad links. 

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Networks asked to police themselves

The barrier where free speech meets regulation in the internet age is becoming one of increasing friction. In response to yet more high profile cases the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has said first that social networks must do more to police their own content and subsequently that new laws may be needed.

The most recent cases have seen a man jailed for 12 weeks after using Facebook to make light of the plight of missing (and, tragically presumed dead) Welsh schoolgirl April Jones.

Another Facebook user avoided jail for his unpopular opinions. But after using the deaths of six British soldiers in Afghanistan as an opportunity to tell the world that ‘all soldiers should die and go to hell’he will carry out 240 hours of community service.

The welter of prosecutions has led – along with the posting of millions of pixels-worth of online comment - the DPP Keir Starmer to look at how the online world is policed.

In a series of seminars Starmer has held on the subject, one of the prime movers for some sort of reform of the current system is believed to be Britain’s police services.

They are the ones faced with a crime that almost anyone can report falling victim to simply by logging on to their computers. Section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act makes ‘grossly offensive’material sent by electronic means a crime. So now what might once have been the quick gross-out moment of the latest sick joke in the school yard can cost a youngster a couple of terms behind bars.

Chief constables want companies like Facebook and Twitter to act more quickly to take down offensive material. The social networks are faced both with increasing costs to employ moderators and of defining a line in the free speech friendly world of the web over which its users must not tread.

Starmer may do what he has with other controversial areas of laws – such as assisted suicides – and take all decisions on whether to prosecute into his own hands.

However, he has hinted that the Communications Act has now passed its sell by date and Parliament may need to make the decisions about whether social media should be treated in the same way as telephone communication.

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Who you are is worth a fortune

According to credit checking firm Experian identity theft is a booming online business. Their 2012 research reported a 300% rise in the illegal trade of personal information in just two years.

Shakespeare told us that our reputations were our most valuable possessions. Were he to be writing in the Internet age he’d probably add passwords and security questions to those ‘immortal parts’ of ourselves.

The Internet has changed almost every aspect of modern life, and criminals are as keen to be up to date as the rest of us. Running into a bank with a sawn off shotgun is so 20th Century, when the modern thief can sit phishing passwords from the comfort of their home office.

Once it’s been taken your identity can run riot in fraudulent hands. Experian’s research says that victims usually discover they’ve been hit when they are refused credit or contracts. An unfortunate 7% of victims learn the bad news when debt collectors come calling.

You can protect yourself online however. Much of this is common sense, but it’s worth remembering that security online is very much your responsibility.

The web is a fast and convenient way to do so many things but cutting corners on security can be costly.
Microsoft’s advice is as good as any.

1 - Use a strong, password that mixes letters, numbers and symbols, upper and lower case. If it’s easy for you to remember it’s correspondingly easy for crooks to crack.

2 – Use a different password for every account you have. When hackers made a password raid on an online Star Wars game you can bet they didn’t want free credit for their light sabres. Experian’s report found Britons averaged just five passwords across a typical 26 online accounts. Make sure losing a message board key won’t open the door to your bank account too.

3 – Don’t use sensitive accounts on shared PCs or in public places. High tech thieves might use key-logging software but a good old-fashioned look over your shoulder can reveal as much.

4 – Value your personal details. If someone calls or emails asking for personal details like your date of birth be sure you know who they are and what they want them for.

5 – Invest in virus protection and anti-spyware and malware programmes and keep them updated. Make sure your browser’s phishing filters are on.

6. Never enter personal details online until you’re sure you’re on the right page. Phishers have become very adept at faking sites so double check the URL before typing and beware clickable links in emails.

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Should I view the web on my mobile or use the mobile version of a website?

Today many websites have a ‘mobile’ version of the site for use with smartphones. When you access the web through your mobile, websites will automatically direct you to the mobile version of their pages.
So, which is better? Should you use the mobile versions of websites that have been created? Or should you view the pages as you would on your home PC?
The advantages of mobile versions of websites
You may be wondering why companies offer a mobile version of their website when the vast majority of smartphones have web browsers that allow you to access the pages exactly as you would on a PC.
Well, mobile websites have a number of benefits. Firstly, mobile sites display properly on small mobile phone and tablet screens. Traditional websites don’t, and often require you to scroll back and forth to reveal the information.
Secondly, if you’re using a website on your mobile it’s likely that you’re looking for different information. Mobile users are generally looking for quick facts or information or the ability to do something quickly and easily. You’re not generally interested in superfluous text or high tech graphics when you’re on the go.
So, mobile websites tend to be simpler, easier to view and more straightforward to navigate.
Why you may want to view the original version of a website
Studies in late 2011 from Pew and from On Device Research showed that over 25 per cent of people in the US who browse the Web on smartphones almost never use any other platform. That means 11 per cent of adults in the US, or about 25 million people, only see the Web on small screens.
Insisting that web users see a minimal, stripped-back version of a website may actually be restrictive. More and more people are using a mobile in place of a PC, meaning they expect to access the same web content on their phone as they do on their PC.
So, rather than creating mobile websites, many companies are improving their main website to allow exactly the same content to be available to everyone.

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Music to come streaming from the Beeb

As the biggest player in British broadcasting - for many years the only one - the BBC has an unrivalled music library which it intends to share with licence fee payers on a new music streaming service.
The Daily Telegraph has reported that a project called Playlister is likely to be launched at an iPlayer press call on Monday, October 8.
Anyone who’s gnashed their teeth at the wiping of classic TV shows from the BBC archive has the corporation’s origins as a world broadcaster to thank for this development. Faced with reaching an empire across myriad time zones, the Beeb began recording its radio shows way back in 1932. Sadly, as tape was introduced in the 1950s some old radio recordings were recorded over to save cash.
The main obstacle to such a service would be copyright issues. The BBC is said to be in talks with the biggest players in the digital music market – Spotify, Deezer and iTunes – about their deals.
And, the music business seems to be learning to live with the new online world. This week, Mumford and Sons broke 2012 sales records for their new album Babel. They did this despite not following the usual industry protocol of holding tracks back from streaming services as the record launched.
The Playlister service should be free to UK licence fee payers and without adverts too.
With everything from historic wartime speeches by Winston Churchill to some of The Beatles’ best work lurking in a massively diverse BBC sound archive, Playlister shouldn’t have any problem finding listeners.
The corporation itself has had nothing to say on the matter so any reported details are informed speculation at best. However, the BBC has made a massive success of the iPlayer, which saw peaks of 51m weekly views during the Olympic Games, and their director of audio and music Tim Davie is said to be keen to secure a major legacy from his time in post.

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Are we there yet? Internet map shows giants of the cyber sky

Ever since medieval cartographers warned their fellow explorers ‘here be dragons’ maps have been a fascinating and illuminating way of visualising our world. Now, cyber space has been mapped too by data-visualisation designer Ruslan Enikeev.

The first thing to note about the Internet map is that it’s a beautiful thing to look at. It’s far closer to one of those wonderful photographs of the night sky than to anything you’d use to get from A to B.
Enikeev, who makes no money from this project and is appealing for donations to help meet his hosting costs, has turned to the laws of physics to create his plan.

Each site is a circle, its size dependent on web traffic, and coloured according to its nationality. The relative positions of the circles are decided by the links formed as people move from one site to another.
The light blue of the United States dominates the map and the biggest body of them all is, unsurprisingly, Google.com. Challenging it for size are Facebook, Yahoo, Live.com and Twitter.

The map also links sites by their content (there’s a detailed run down of all the science involved available at the site), making for some fascinating juxtapositions. The mapper himself notes that: “a vast porno cluster can be seen between Brazil and Japan”. And, while Blogspot – Google’s blogging platform – is an American site it has been dragged close to the Iranian section of the map. Wordpress, another blogging site, floats off on its own in empty space.

The BBC’s site is a giant of the United Kingdom’s slice of cyber space and other news and politics sites cluster around it. It seems too, that lots of South Africans must use it for their news as red .za sites also orbit it closely.

It may be a struggle to find a practical use for all this beautifully presented information. Enikeev has mapped more than 350,000 sites and over 2 million links and created something of beauty.

View the map here:

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Wiki War of Words


The argument over the Government’s proposed communications data bill went nuclear last week when the founder of Wikipedia compared the planned surveillance of web traffic to that found in Iran and China.

Jimmy Wales says his legendary site will encrypt all its Internet connections with the UK if the bill goes ahead.

And Wales is far from alone in his criticism. Under the new law, mobile phone companies and Internet service providers will have to keep a record of every email sent, phone call made and page clicked. That’s an extension of previous powers, which obliged phone companies to keep records of phone calls and text messages for 12 months.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the web, entered the fray last week, warning that the UK would loose its valuable international reputation as a free web nation. He urged the public to campaign against the bill.

If Berners-Lee was moderate in his language, others have not been so measured.

Wales told members of both Houses of Parliament examining the proposed legislation: "It is not the sort of thing I'd expect from a western democracy. It is the kind of thing I would expect from the Iranians or the Chinese and it would be detected immediately by the Internet industry."

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, said: "Bluntly these are as dangerous as we expected, and represent unprecedented surveillance powers in the democratic world."

Home Secretary Theresa May argues that burgeoning online crime means law enforcement must follow where cyber criminals lead them. But industry representatives warned parliamentarians that the very act of creating such a vast data store would attract those criminals.

Linx, the London Internet Exchange, said a raid on this stored information – including personal details of millions of UK internet users – would amount to, ‘a significant threat to national security’.

The same body warned that the Government would now be in control of a massive ‘profiling engine’, which could ‘represent a dramatic shift in the balance between personal privacy and the capabilities of the state to investigate and analyse the citizen’.

You can join campaigns against the bill becoming law online and read more about the legislation at the Parliament website.



A couple of campaigns.


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Blogging tips from the top of the Google mountain

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama might think they’re battling to become the most powerful man in the world, but Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Webspam has the online marketing world at his fingertips already.
Mr Cutts is the man tasked with making sure what you type into that Google search box is reflected accurately in the results. His enemies are the web’s spammers, link sellers and black hat SEO operators all desperate to cheat their site into the Promised Land that is page one of search results.
The way Google works – and one of the reasons it has become the search engine of choice – is a fearsomely complex world of mathematical algorithms and analysis.
This month Cutts spoke about a new Google search algorithm called Penguin. Penguin has been released across the web and it’s wiping out dodgy guest blogging as an SEO tactic. 
Guest blogs are often used by online marketers to bombard search engines with positive inbound links to a site. But Penguin is spotting – and marking down – links from duplicate or near duplicate blogs posted across the web.
But it’s not the end for guest blogging, as long as it’s high quality. This is good news for good authors, whose subject knowledge is now being recognised by Google and flagged up to searchers.
The web is a fast moving world and Google is constantly updating its methods to stay ahead of the black hats. Cutts – speaking on Google radio – also revealed a new algorithm is aimed at exact match domain names. These sites try to gain ranking by using a common search term – www.lotterysecrets.com say – as their site name. Cutts says his new tool will mark these sites down if their content isn’t up to scratch.
Good content is the lifeblood of any search engine. It’s getting harder and harder to ‘trick’ the likes of Google, meaning quality content is increasingly the best way to get a site up the rankings.
Anyone with an interest in online marketing ought to be listening to Mr Cutts.

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No .co as UK addresses look to drop a dot!

The people in charge of the UK’s internet address book are proposing a new shorter naming protocol for British websites which they say will offer better security online.
Nominet is a not for profit company which as the .uk domain name registry regulates all web addresses ending in .uk. Until now all .uk addresses were third level domains, with the familiar abbreviations like .co.uk, .ac.uk, or .org.uk.
Now Nominet is consulting on dropping that third level part of web addresses in favour of a simple .uk.
It may seem a rather academic discussion, after all what’s in a name. But Nominet says that the new addresses will allow them to introduce more security measures and ensure that websites who register them will have a real off line UK presence.
Nominet says it will scan all .uk websites for malware and viruses and give them a domain name system security extensions (a digital signature) that will assure browsers that they are looking at a genuine site.
Site owners who are notified of malicious software in their web space and who do nothing about it could have their registrations suspended.
National boundaries will be enforced with good old snail mail playing a part in the registration process to ensure that .uk registered sites have – at least – a valid UK address. That’s important because Nominet’s research found that 80% of us try to use .uk sites for transactions when at the moment they could be run from offices in Timbuktu or Tehran. 
Current owners of .uk address won’t be forced to drop their .co or .org immediately. But if the change goes ahead Nominet is likely to want the whole .uk web to migrate to the shorter naming system in time.
At the moment the wholesale cost of a Nominet address is £5 for two years. That’s likely to increase to – if reports are to be believed – as much as £20 a year.
Nominet is consulting on the changes until January 7, 2013 and you can have your say at their website.

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Are you ready for the fourth generation?

Politicians are already arguing over how to spend the cash that will come in after a deal was struck that will see 4G mobile internet hit the UK early next year.
A row between providers had been holding up the roll out of the new mobile internet standard. The Government had allowed Everything Everywhere, the merged T-Mobile and Orange who’ve just rebranded as EE, to steal a march by using part of their spare 2G capabilities to launch 4G.
Now threats of legal action have been dropped. EE will still get in first with a 10-city launch at the end of this month, with six more cities to follow by the end of the year. The rest of pack will get their services up and running by the summer of next year.
Many major economies including Germany and the USA, already have 4G (some minor ones like Estonia too). Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Miller reckons the UK will get a £2-3 billion bonus from the new, faster network. The auction for the bandwidth needed is likely to bring around £4 billion for the exchequer too.
EE is now promising: "superfast mobile internet at speeds typically five times faster than 3G speeds today". In fact, a standard speed test run by the Guardian found 4G was nine times faster when downloading and 4.5 times speedier on uploads. That, however, is on a virtually deserted network. 
The lucky first ten cities are: Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Liverpool, Cardiff, London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow and Sheffield. Belfast, Derby, Hull, Nottingham, Newcastle and Southampton will be on 4G by the end of the year. You can check your postcode here (http://ee.co.uk/coverage).
The big deal with 4G is that it is bound to accelerate the move towards accessing the web on mobile devices. EE is, naturally, trumpeting the iPhone 5 link, but not all devices previously sold as 4G ready will work on their network. To ‘log on’ on October 30 you’ll need one of these: iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy SIII LTE, Nokia Lumia 920, Nokia Lumia 820, HTC One XL and the Huawei Ascend P1 LTE.

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Five Twitter Marketing Tips

Twitter can be a great way of connecting your business with existing customers and promoting your services and products to a large audience covering many demographics and several nations. To help you market your business effectively, we have put together a few tips to help you engage with your current and potential customers.
1. Follow wisely. Following others is a good way to increase your own twitter followers but in addition to potential and existing customers, you should always try and follow other important individuals and businesses in your industry. You may have difficult finding the relevant twitter members to your business, but there are several sites such as We Follow which will allow you to search for keywords relating to your business. Don’t just follow these individuals, try and converse with them on occasion whether it’s commenting on a tweet by them, asking a question or sharing a thought.
2. Tweet wisely. The beauty of Twitter is that anybody can tweet whenever they want and as often as they want, but this has unfortunately led to a lot of businesses throwing out an endless stream of promotional tweets. However, when it comes to Twitter it’s a case of quality over quantity so make sure that instead of hundreds of links you post useful, interesting content that twitter users would be interested in reading about - whether in the form of links or just updates.
3. Track the success of your links. Twitter automatically shortens normal links so that you don’t use up too much of your 160 characters, but by using sites such as bit.ly you will be able to view more in-depth statistics on each individual link such as the number of people who have clicked on it. This will give you the opportunity to assess the success of that particular tweet and see what methods work best when marketing on your twitter.
4. Don’t slack off. This is easier said then done because when you’re having a busy few days or you’ve got other things on your mind, you may well forget to keep updating your Twitter. Try to post at least once a day, even if that post is just about the weather or about why you’re not able to Tweet much - it instills confidence in your potential customers and gains you credibility, not to mention the possibility that these tweets may directly or indirectly lead to new customers.

5. Make sure you’re reaching the right demographic. It’s all well and good posting regularly and in an engaging manner, but if you’re doing so to a random selection of individuals who would have no interest in your products or services, what’s the point? For many online stores your target demographic may be quite all-encompassing, but the vast majority of businesses will have a specific target demographic in mind. There are several websites such as the previously mentioned We Follow which can help connect you with potentially interested customers as well as other relevant businesses but you can also search manually for interested individuals and follow them first. Searching related keywords on twitter will bring up people who are talking about these kinds of items and then follow them. 

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