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2020

Influencer Authenticity.jpgby Mari Smith

 

The right social media influencer can bring much-needed attention to your small business. By introducing your business, product, or service to an influencer’s audience of raving fans, it can boost your visibility while helping generate engagement, leads and sales.

 

The key, however, is finding the right social media influencer. You want someone who is authentic, who has an engaged audience that aligns with your demographic, and whose values align with your product or service.

 

Let me break the considerations down for you.

 

Getting Started

 

The first step is finding social media influencers. There are several influencer research tools, where you can search for people by niche, area, or industry. More on tools below. You may also look to competing and complementary brands to see who they use, and how they use them, to give you an idea of what’s possible.

 

For instance, if you work in the wellness industry and see that your top competitor has a known fitness instructor representing their brand, search for someone comparable or even better to give you a leg up.

 

Once you have a list of a half-dozen ideal influencers, the research starts.

 

More than the Numbers

 

Start by reviewing their fans and followers on the major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and possibly YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn. While public-facing metrics are an excellent starting point, beware. Someone could very well have bought their fans or followers. They might even be a bot or use bots for engagement.

 

To check authenticity of the influencers, look at several things:

 

Audience:

 

Don’t just look at the numbers, see who is actually following the influencer. Is it other influencers? Brands? People with large followings? If you answered ‘yes’ to all of the above, the influencer is likely legit.

 

However, there are plenty of red flags where influencers are concerned. Beware of any supposed influencer whose followers:

- Have little to no followers themselves

- Have no profile pictures

- Have spammy sounding usernames

 

One more thing: If an influencer’s social platform has a sudden spike in engagement, it may be a legitimate campaign, or it could mean something happening that is ‘gaming’ the algorithms/systems. Do a deeper dive into this influencer… or just move on!

 

Engagers and Engagement Rate:

 

Review who engages with the influencer regularly. Look into who shares their content, retweets, likes and comments. These could be micro-influencers with their own niche community or just regular people who enjoy the influencers’ content. You will also want to read the comments and tweets. Intelligent, thoughtful replies say a lot about the influencers’ community. Users who say things like, “Hey, nice post!’ could be a bot or bought follower.

 

Often more important than the number of followers an influencer has is the engagement rate. To calculate an influencer’s engagement rate, look back over the past 20 to 30 posts, divide the total engagement per post by the number of followers, and multiply that to by 100 to get their engagement rate. You can compare that against these average engagement rate benchmarks by industry to see if they’re doing well.

 

Tone, Style and Communication

 

When considering using an influencer, you want to make sure they will be representative of your small business. That means looking into what they share on their social profiles and how they engage with their community.

 

Content:

 

Read the influencer’s posts and/or watch their videos. Are they transparent in what they share? Do they share some personal elements in their messaging? Is the tone and style of their content messaging consistently on brand for them? Is their brand aligned with your company’s style, tone, and mission?

 

Sponsored Content:

 

Are they crystal clear about paid relationships? Your business plays by the rules, and you want your influencers to do the same. Typically, this means including the tags #ad, #spon, and/or #ambassador, as well as using Facebook and Instagram’s Branded Content tagging tool.

 

Engagement:

 

The best influencers are the ones who not only share your message, but also engage with their community. Review their posts to see how involved they are with their people. Does the influencer reply to at least some of their audience’s comments? Do they appear to have genuine conversations? Do they seem natural, honest, and friendly? Is the tone and style of their communication consistent?

 

While these are public personas, you want influencers with strong interpersonal skills and genuine interest in their community, since those elements count for so much.

 

Tools

 

Once you’ve vetted your potential influencers’ social channels, their content, and their engagement, you can do a deeper dive into their reach and relationships using a variety of online resources.

 

Google Search:

 

Sometimes the most basic ways of research are the best. Look for the influencer’s name/brand, along with potential key phrases associated with their expertise/authority, to see what more you can find out online. This information will help you assess their level of authenticity.

 

Followerwonk:

 

Followerwonk enables you to identify influencers by keyword; you can also search by name. In addition, the free version of FollowerWonk allows you to compare the followers of up to three Twitter accounts, analyze an influencer’s followers, or analyze who the influencer follows.

 

BuzzSumo:

 

Use Buzzsumo to search for influencers by type and see their number of followers, domain authority, and more. There’s also a BuzzSumo browser extension, which enables you to quickly check social engagement data for the page you're viewing, or for any other website.

 

Facebook’s CrowdTangle Link Checker:

 

This browser extension provides a one-click way to see how often a link has been shared, who shared it, and what they said. This works for articles and blog posts, as well as links to social media content.

 

HypeAuditor:

 

If you want to invest in using a complete Influencer platform, check out HypeAuditor. Purpose-built for fraud detection, HypeAuditor measures overall audience quality.

 

When choosing an influencer to represent your business, it’s essential to gauge their authenticity. Start with the legwork on basic metrics, filter out the frauds, and then do extensive research on your top tier possibilities.

 

The goal: Discover the best mutually beneficial arrangement for both you and the influencer. When it’s win-win, you’ll find a long-term match and endless possibilities!

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Veteran Employee.jpgby Steve Strauss

 

If you own a small business, one of the best ways to honor veterans this National Hire a Veteran Day (July 25) is to hire one. Indeed, while veterans returning to civilian life often have difficulties finding good jobs, the fact is, veterans have specialized skills and other attributes that make them excellent employees.

 

Hiring veterans is a smart business decision and here are the top 5 reasons why:

 

1. Veterans have a great work ethic:

 

It is called military discipline for a reason. When it comes to working hard, veterans are often well-equipped to stay on task. When you’re a service member, your job requires focus, determination, and precision. Anything less could mean lives are at risk, could mean your safety, of the safety of others, is at risk. Being a service member instills a drive within people to stay disciplined and focused, keeping at the task at hand until it is completed.

 

These skills easily transfer to working in business; veterans understand the meaning of hard work and getting the job done, which, as you well know, are desirable qualities in employees.

 

2. Veterans are trainable:

 

Although veterans may not know the ins and outs of your small business, they nevertheless possess one quality that makes them very good employees: trainability.

 

Service members are used to listening to superiors, getting feedback, learning, adapting, and taking on new challenges. All of these qualities make them very trainable employees. Veterans take direction well and when given a new task, can learn and execute it.

 

3. Veterans know how to work in a team – and how to lead:

 

Working in teams is fundamental to being in the service; that’s how things get done and missions accomplished. Service members must be able to work with a variety of people, collaborate, and be a valuable member of a team.

 

That said, what is also driven home in the service? Being a leader. There are many opportunities to rise in the ranks of leadership when in the military, which allows veterans to already have the knowledge for how to run a team.

So yes, veterans can definitely be a great addition to your team, but also, when given the right guidance, lead it.

 

4. Veterans are excellent problem solvers:

 

Veterans know firsthand what it means to find solutions to tricky challenges. They have experienced thinking on their feet and working under pressure in demanding situations.

 

That adaptability and inventiveness is another reason why they make great employees.

 

In any business, problem-solving is a valuable skill - when tough situations arise, it is important to have employees who can diffuse problems and find innovative solutions when none might be seemingly available. Veterans, with this skill already, make good employees for this very reason.

 

5. Bonus: There are government incentives for you to hire a veteran!

 

Hiring a veteran is smart because of their plethora of skills, and you also may be able to qualify for government incentives for doing so.

 

 

  • Additionally, Wounded Warrior tax credits can be claimed if you hire veterans with disabilities. If you want to learn more about tax credits and incentives for hiring veterans, find more on the VA website

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Video Selling.jpgby Steve Strauss

 

Let’s say you want to ask your customers and/or fan base to do something – buy a product, donate to a cause, click a link, whatever. Which of the below do you think would be more effective in getting them to act:

 

  • A well-written email sent to your carefully curated opt-in list with a strong call-to-action, or
  • Asking in person or via a video chat?

 

Check out the answer, from the Harvard Business Review:

 

Despite the reach of email, asking in person is a significantly more effective approach; you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast.

 

That, as we say, ain’t chopped liver.

 

But asking in person is challenging right now, so what about asking “in-person” via Zoom, Skype, or Facetime?

 

Maybe you are thinking that, under these circumstances, email is still probably better, right?

Wrong. Not even close. Video is clearly the way.

 

According to the Harvard Business Review, citing research, “we found that people tend to overestimate the power of their persuasiveness via text-based communication, and underestimate the power of their persuasiveness via face-to-face communication.”

 

That said, communicating and selling via Zoom is a different animal than doing so live in-person.

 

You Can Sell on Zoom

 

Here then are the things that the experts tell us you must keep in mind as you look to sell (or persuade) via video:

 

Create rapport

 

Sales 101 is that it is best to begin by making a connection with the person to whom you are speaking. This is as true online as it is off. And the way you do it is the same – look them in the eye, make a joke, find something you have in common, engage in chit-chat.

 

(Remember: do not look at the screen to make eye contact. Look at the camera, and if you can, make sure your camera is at eye level.)

 

Don’t forget the role of non-verbal cues

 

“We found the nonverbal cues conveyed during a face-to-face interaction made all the difference in how people viewed the legitimacy of their requests,” according to the Harvard Business Review.

 

Non-verbal cues in a video chat or sales call include: Looking at a cellphone, looking away, lack of engagement or questions. Non-verbal cues are just that – cues!

 

Consider your Zoom background

 

According to the Zoom Blog, “What you have surrounding you in the frame is as important as making sure you are front and center. Remove the clutter and either have a blank background (like in a conf room) or a professional background if in an office. A bonus will be making a custom virtual background with the logo of the company you are selling to.”

 

And don’t forget the possibility of using a virtual background. Here’s how.

 

Be a pro/Have the right equipment

 

What you don’t want is to look or sound glitchy; that comes from having mediocre equipment. If you need to invest in a professional microphone or web camera, do so. And what about hard-wiring your computer into your router during the call and saving the wireless for your regular web work?

 

Also, consider your lighting carefully. You want your lights in front of you, lighting up your face, not behind you.

 

In the end, while selling via video is still not as preferable as selling live, in-person, it remains the best bet right now, and better than selling via email. Given that, it is important to do it right.

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Financial Scams_Sized.jpgby Steve Strauss

 

One industry showing no signs of slowing down during Coronavirus is hardly unexpected: Cyber scamming. Scammers have continued to thrive – flourish even – during and as we work to recover from the pandemic.

 

The Better Business Bureau has identified six of the most reported financial scams during this time:

 

1. Stimulus check scams:

 

As you know, $1,200 was issued to a considerable number of Americans by the  U.S. government, but because the payments rolled out slowly, scammers took advantage quickly. The BBB reports that fake economic impact checks were mailed, promising people that they could get their money faster if they paid a small fee. Little do the unfortunate know, but these checks are not coming from the government, and aren’t even real for that matter. The bad guys use this scam to:

 

  • Cheat you out of money
  • Gain access to your bank account
  • Potentially steal your identity

 

2. Phishing scams:

 

Although phishing scams have always been popular among con artists, they have gained even more popularity in this work-from-home era.

 

For example, I recently received an email from ‘Uber’ telling me to claim my offer of a free ride. But the email looked suspicious, and when I checked who the email was from, it wasn’t the official Uber website. I didn’t click any links and I’m glad I didn’t. This is a classic phishing scam, and the type the BBB warns against. The bad guys email you, enticing you with some great offer so as to get you to click a bad link which will then infect your computer with a virus.

 

Phishing scams usually entail emails that look (almost) exactly like ones from companies you trust - whether it be your employer, or an organization, or maybe a retailer that you know and like. The point is to get you to let your guard down (because it looks legit) and have you click on links that ultimately compromise your computer, and eventually, your personal information.

 

3. Government impersonation:

 

A common scam that has been cropping up more and more during the COVID-19 are government impersonator emails, texts and phone calls. Con artists will contact you, claiming to be some government official; they may say they are from the FBI, or the IRS, or even your local police. The point is to scare you into letting your guard down.

 

One common angle is that they mention that that they have an “online coronavirus test” that you need to take. The BBB reports that no test like this exists (of course.) The goal is to get you to go to an infected website, click a bad link, thereby downloading malware onto your computer which allows them to hijack your personal information.

 

4. Employment scams:

 

This emerging trick is one of the crueler, yet more sophisticated, financial scams that has cropped up during this time. Employment scams seek to get the recently unemployed to cough up money and bank account information through clever - and costly - tricks.

 

It works like this: Scammers will target the unemployed with phony work-from-home job offers. The jobs seem legit, are “easy to do,” and “pay good money,” and the hiring process is “quick and painless.” Too painless to be true.

 

Alert! When you start training for the job, the crooks will ask you to pay fees for the cost of training you. Red flag! Or, you will be asked to wire back “overpayments” or buy expensive equipment. These scams ultimately cost you not only your money, but your time, hope and reputation.

 

5. The Fake-Cure Scam:

 

During this time of high anxiety, people are of course seeking answers and relief. Scammers have been attempting to provide that by offering “coronavirus cures.” Via phone, text, or email, they will offer special masks, or “medical cures that the government is hiding.”

 

But you know the drill by now: They will also ask you for your credit card information. Of course, the products never arrive and the link you clicked or the information you provided allows for identity theft.

 

Ultimately, there are many scams that have become more popular because of coronavirus fears. But if you keep your eyes peeled and stay alert, you won’t get hurt.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

It may be surprising to learn that of the 30 million businesses in the U.S., at least 80% are one-person operations. And, just like those businesses that have employees, solopreneurs also need help in the era of coronavirus. steve self employed pic.jpg

 

The good news: There is a lot of assistance available.

 

Here is a round-up of the best assistance programs for solopreneurs:

 

The Small Business Administration: The bulk of the news about the SBA recently has to do with its handling of the enormous Payroll Protection Program, but the SBA does and offers much more than that. For example, if you already have a loan through the SBA 7(a), Community Advantage, 504, or microloan programs, you can qualify for payment relief for up to six months. You can find its coronavirus resources and financial assistance page here.

 

  • Additionally, the SBA has created a streamlined application process for its Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Applicants are eligible for a $10,000 advance ($1,000 per employee) that does not have to be paid back even if you are declined for the EIDL loan. You can apply here.

 

Unemployment: Yes, state unemployment offices are overwhelmed with applications, but that doesn’t mean you should not apply. Due to Covid-19, 1099 contractors now qualify for government assistance. Learn more here.

 

Industry specific grants and programs: Many different industries that employ or represent contract workers have created a plethora of programs:

 

 

As small businesses look to the future it’s important to remember that there are a number of resources available. It’s making sure to stay informed and leverage the ones that are relevant to each business that will help small business owners move forward.

 

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his steve strauss headshot.pngAsk an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

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