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Managing and maintaining a social media account is not always easy for small business owners. Why? There are a couple reasons:

 

For starters, there is a huge variety of platforms to choose from: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and more. It’s up to you how robust you want your business’s social media presence to be. Depending on what your business specializes in, some social media platforms will be more useful to you than others.

 

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Also, it takes time. Even after you have decided which platforms are important for you and which you can ignore, you will have to make time to maintain your social media presence ... We’re talking daily posts, follower engagement, etc.

 

The good news is that maintaining a thriving social media presence need not be that difficult. Here are a few of our best hacks:

 

1. Utilize video: People watch online videos. They gobble them up. It would therefore behoove you to put your business in that fast lane. The good news is that creating a video presence for your business has never been easier, quicker or more affordable because nowadays, it is not necessary to produce high-quality videos to garner views. We are in the YouTube era. Moreover, with Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook Live in our midst, you can create compelling video for free, and in the palm of your hand.

 

               RELATED CONTENT:  How to use Compelling Video On Social Media for your Small Business

 

2. Show behind-the-scenes footage: What should your video be about? One thing that works is behind-the-scenes footage. People love that. Similarly, your social posts, even without video, should be highly visual as visual content is more likely to gain clicks and shares than pure text. Take and post some photos of your staff, the yummy food at your restaurant – things like that. It’s fun for customers to see this side of the business.

 

               RELATED CONTENT:  Read next: 5 Steps to Use Video to Garner More Clients

 

3. Create connections: One secret of social media is that it is not just about being a megaphone for your business, it is about creating connections, so make a point to share content from other businesses in your sphere. This creates goodwill and can result in some returned shares in the future. This is an especially good idea if that business is similar to yours, so as to provide your followers with content that you already know will keep them engaged.

 

               RELATED CONTENT: 5 Simple Steps to Increase Business Referrals

 

4. Engage: Push content, yes, but don’t forget to also engage with your tribe. Find extra ways to interact with your followers. Respond to people’s questions, retweet followers, show appreciation, etc. Most social media platforms have poll-making technology, which can not only be a fun, interactive activity, but can also provide you with useful feedback you could use.

 

Engagement creates a connection with your brand.

 

               RELATED CONTENT:  How to Engage with Your Social Media Followers

 

5. Create contests: Incentivize your followers. Contests can be great for that, and moreover, contests typically bring new people into the fold. Get creative and make sure people have a clear reason to participate.

 

6. Share tips and insights: Social media is a good way to address common FAQs ahead of time. Think of your most commonly asked questions and answer them in the form of a fun fact or pro-tip. This too is engaging and useful.

 

               RELATED CONTENT:  Facebook Messenger Chatbots Give Small Business Owners an Edge 

 

7. Make announcements: Use social media to announce promotions, sales, and any other relevant news about your business. This is a great way to remind your customers about upcoming events and to get them to think about your business.

 

               RELATED CONTENT:  Why Your Small Business Should Participate in Facebook or Instagram Live Streaming Events. And Tweet Chats, Too!

 

8. Schedule your posts ahead of time: It can be easy to forget to post on social media. Scheduling your posts in advance ensures this doesn’t happen – it’s also a great time-saver. There are a lot of tools out there designed to make this easy for you. Buffer and Hootsuite are probably your best bets, but there are more tools for scheduling posts  if those two don’t fit your needs.

 

Last tip: Ask. For example: Did you like this post? Then please share.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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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 Ask 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 informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles 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.

Instagram is Facebook’s next Facebook. I’ve been including this statement in all my keynotes and broadcasts for the past 18 months and it seems never more true than now. This year has been a challenging one for Facebook in many ways, and Instagram may well be the ‘life raft’ Facebook needs to ensure continued growth of the family of apps.

 

When Facebook first bought Instagram back in April 2012 for an astounding $1 billion, the young photo-sharing app only had 30 million users, 13 employees and zero revenue.

 

Now, Instagram recently announced its first 1 billion monthly active users milestone. The company has over 700 employees and has an estimated worth of over $100 billion. Instagram will bring in close to $8 billion in ad revenue according to eMarketer.

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From a business standpoint, there are 25 million business profiles and 2 million advertisers.

 

The good news for small business owners looking to optimize Instagram is there’s still plenty of time for you to master the art of standing out on this fun, visual platform with a generally younger demographic.

 

Make Sure You Have A Business Instagram Profile

 

First, in order to maximize the best features for business use on Instagram, it’s important you have a business account, not a personal profile. If you currently have a personal profile, you can easily switch that profile to business in your settings. Or, consider setting up a second Instagram account, if appropriate. Keep in mind it does take work to maintain even one account so make sure you have the resources and time to manage a second account.

 

Optimize Your Bio, Including Hashtags and Links

 

Your bio comprises up to 150 characters and is the only area where you can add clickable links. You can also include clickable @ mentions to related accounts and relevant clickable hashtags. Plus, with your business account, you can now add a call to action such as ‘Call,’ ‘Email,’ or ‘Directions.’

 

Ideas for using links in your Instagram bio include sending visitors to a webpage, to a YouTube video, to a contest, or a free download.

 

To get more out of your main website link, consider a service such as

Linktree or these alternatives. This allows you to create one link that pops up with a nice list of clickable links. Here you might add a lead generation giveaway, special offer, FAQs, etc.

 

Publish Visually Compelling Posts

 

This is going to be your most important step. Instagram has always been a highly visual platform. It was designed for sharing photos and videos and has been a real boon to professional and amateur photographers around the world.

 

You can simply use your mobile phone and good lighting to take quality photos and video clips. Then publish in the square format. Although Instagram now lets you publish in portrait or landscape mode on your main feed, the square format photos and videos still perform best. Instagram makes it very easy to publish in square format, pulling any photo or video from your camera roll.

 

Ideally, use a specific color theme for your posts and be consistent in order to communicate the right aesthetics for your brand.

 

Enhance your photos and videos with apps such as Instagram-owned Layout, Boomerang or Hyperlapse. See more great app suggestions from Instagram.

 

Or, use free stock images from the likes of Pixabay or Pexels, and make striking visuals using apps such as Canva or Adobe Spark.

 

Also, use the Search & Explore feature to find all manner of curated content that might be relevant to you. Proactively seek accounts that spark ideas for your own posts. Plus, follow and engage with accounts that may be relevant to you. This feature is also a great place to discover a variety of hashtags you might use in your own posts.

 

Include Plenty of Relevant Hashtags

 

Instagram allows you to include up to 30 hashtags per post. Some experts recommend only including 3-7 in the main post description and more in the first comment. However, other studies show maximizing up to 30 hashtags in the description performs just as well. The main point to keep in mind is relevance.

 

For example, let’s say you are a hair salon and you use the hashtag #hairtrends in your post about a funky new style, that’s totally relevant. If people find you by clicking through on the #hairtrends hashtag, they’d be happy to see your post and hopefully engage with you and follow your account. But, if you’re a drycleaner and you use the same #hairtrends hashtag on a post with tips on stain removal, that would be a total disconnect and people would quickly move on.

 

Save Time with Planning and Scheduling Tools

 

For planning and scheduling your Instagram posts, consider helpful apps such as Later, PlannThat, Schedugram, Planoly or AgoraPulse. The latter also helps you to manage your community engagement across all social channels.

 

How often should you publish content? It depends. At minimum, strive for one really good post on your wall per week then increase to 3-5 per week. It’s better to have less content that really resonates with your followers and gets great engagement, vs. pushing out too much content that hardly gets any reach, visibility or engagement. You’ll need to experiment to find the right cadence for your audience.

 

Embrace Instagram Stories

 

I wrote about the power of Instagram Stories in July. Since then, Instagram Stories has grown another 100 million daily active users to 400 million. Keep in mind that both Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, and Chris Cox, Facebook’s CPO, are saying that consumption of content in the Stories format is set to surpass consumption of content in the feed format. This goes for both Instagram and Facebook.

 

Savvy small business owners and entrepreneurs would do well to publish one to three pieces of micro content in the Story format every 24 hours. For inspiration, check out what social media management platform Buffer is doing with their weekly trivia contest in Stories.

 

Experiment with Advertising on Instagram

 

The best types of ads I’m seeing on Instagram are either photo or video ads in the main feed that blend in with the content from people I follow, plus creative Story ads. There’s a large overlap between Instagram and Facebook ad formats. And the good news is that you can place an ad on Instagram using Facebook Ads Manager. 

 

For creative 15-second Story video ads, try using a platform such as Wave.video where you can easily create top-quality, professional videos in minutes.

 

Also, begin to consume more Story content yourself as a user – just to study what catches your eye and which advertisers are getting it right.

 

Examples for Inspiration

 

Want to see Instagram done right? Check out a few of my favorite accounts for ideas:

 

If Instagram is still new to your marketing mix, pick one area in these recommendations and pace yourself. But, no matter what, to really stand out on Instagram, keep in mind striking visuals win every time! 

 

 

     Read next:

               Power of Instagram Stories

               Is Facebook Still the King of Social Media?

               The Small Business Owner's Guide to Social Media

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

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Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

You can read more articles from Mari Smith by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Mari Smith is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles 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.

Facebook has faced an inordinate amount of negative and potentially debilitating media coverage this year. During the heat of the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal, the #DeleteFacebook movement reached fever pitch. Several celebrities garnered headline news by taking their Facebook accounts down.

 

However, just how much impact have these challenges had on the world’s most popular social network?

 

Well, only a very small portion of users followed through and deleted their accounts. Instead of shutting down Facebook in an attempt to cause change, many users and businesses chose to stay strong and use the platform to create more good.

 

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          Related content:  Facebook Privacy: What Small Business Owners Need to Know

 

In fact, many of my own community asked me during the height of Facebook’s pressure whether they should shut down their account. I got on my soapbox, big time. I implored my followers to not be so hasty or so foolish. Now was definitely not the time to abandon ship – the largest and most robust ship in the global social network ocean! I knew that Facebook would weather the storm and potentially come out stronger.

 

I first joined Facebook on May 4th, 2007 – Star Was Day! (May the fourth be with you.) It was a defining moment for me that I’ll never forget. I immediately saw the incredible potential of being able to connect with so many people that you might never otherwise have been able to reach. I became a raving evangelist for Facebook on the spot and my passion and enthusiasm for the company never waned since that day. I’ve stayed focused on teaching Facebook marketing for over 11 years now. I was fortunate to be hired as a subcontractor by Facebook in 2015 and went on tour with the company, teaching SMBs the power of Facebook ads.

 

Why small businesses must embrace Facebook marketing


There are over 80 million businesses on Facebook, yet only 6 million are advertisers. On Instagram, there are over 25 million business profiles, and 2 million advertisers. There is still massive potential for small business owners to fully take advantage of all that Facebook and Instagram offer.

 

  • Facebook has been the world’s #1 social network for over a decade and will continue to dominate.
  • Facebook has over 2.23 billion monthly active users.
  • The Facebook family of apps includes Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, Audience Network and Oculus.
  • In June 2018, 2.5 billion people
  • Your business can easily reach the exact target demographic you want by placing ads on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and the Audience Network all using the same Facebook Ads Manager.
  • WhatsApp and Messenger are the two most popular mobile messaging apps
  • Instagram just celebrated 1 billion monthly active users and is only just getting started; in many ways, Instagram is “Facebook’s next Facebook.”
  • Although user growth has slowed on the main Facebook app, Instagram and Messenger are in growth mode. To put this into perspective, it’s not even realistic for Facebook to continue amassing users at the same growth rates now that the company has well over 2 billion users.
  • The Stories format is growing 15X faster than news feed content.
  • There are 400 million daily active users (DAUs) on Instagram Stories and 150 million DAUs on Facebook Stories.
  • Stories are like a ‘sub culture’ primarily on Instagram as users are not just passively consuming feed content; they have to proactively tap into and swipe to consume Stories content.
  • Placing ads in the Stories format is already very effective for many marketers and will only keep growing.
  • If you have customers outside the U.S., be sure to pay close attention to what’s happening with WhatsApp. Facebook is only just beginning to build products for business users on WhatsApp. Android users, be sure to claim your business profile. And businesses can already place click-to-message WhatsApp ads using Facebook Ads Manager.

 

Facebook continually iterates and improves its products for both the consumer user experience and for business user success. There’s never been a better time to dive in and fully optimize Facebook and Instagram for your business.

 

The past, present and future of Facebook

 

Yes, the days pre-2012 were amazing for business users. We could achieve 300% or higher organic reach (getting our business page posts to 3x or more the number of fans). But then Facebook became a public company in 2012 and so the decline in organic reach began as the stock price climbed. Facebook has a fiduciary duty to make money for its shareholders. And Facebook sure continues to deliver in that regard, although there have been some fluctuations in share price especially on the last earnings call due to unrealistic expectations of continued user growth rates.

 

So long as Facebook continues to be an ingrained daily habit for billions of people, the company will keep going from strength to strength. They may not accrue another billion users (unless Mark Zuckerberg finally cracks the code to get into China, but I doubt that will happen).

 

But they will keep evolving and bringing out new AR and VR technology and all manner of high-tech projects. Facebook has a ‘Secret Building 8’ where a dedicated team works on numerous futuristic products. Zuckerberg declared at Facebook’s annual F8 Developer Conference in 2017 that in ten years’ time we would no longer need actual physical giant screen televisions. Instead, we would simply pop in a pair of contact lenses and look out at projected images in front of us. Amazing.

 

Zuckerberg also declared that the smartphone was the original AR device and proudly showed off demonstrations of how you could point your phone at any object and gather real-time info and possibly even a ‘button to buy it,’ he said.

 

Facebook was due to launch an in-home video chat device this year but postponed the launch when the data breach scandal came to light. The device will still launch soon. Conversational commerce – including chatbots and especially voice commerce – is another huge wave and Facebook is already well positioned to help businesses take advantage of these areas.


Messenger marketing is only just starting to catch on among businesses of all sizes. Being able to automate your customer care, FAQs, initial sales inquiries and more can help save vast amounts of time and resources, not to mention increase your conversion rates.

 

As a 14-year-old company, Facebook may be going through teenage growing pains this year. But the company is just as strong, just as robust and is at a place where making strategic choices now can impact the direction of not only the company but of global wellbeing. That’s a tall order, but Facebook has already proven that it can have significant impact on society’s decisions.

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

mari_0362xFACE_preview.jpg

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

You can read more articles from Mari Smith by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Mari Smith is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles 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.

Social media can be great for your business – or it can be a giant time suck yielding little financial gain.

While it’s tempting to try to be everywhere, most small businesses don’t have the arms and legs to do that effectively. Trying to update too many social platforms can lead to not doing any of them particularly well and thus, not generating the financial benefits you hoped for.

 

It’s not a great strategy to put identical content on multiple platforms. Each platform has a different expectation from users. Twitter is concise, opinionated and snarky. Facebook is fine with longer form content and live video. Instagram is driven by compelling visuals and humor. YouTube is the second largest search engine with every type of video imaginable.

 

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CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

There are many social media experts who say you should own your name on all platforms. I’ll share that I wish I had thought of that and registered my name on Twitter sooner. By the time I decided to become active on the platform before the launch of my book, I had to go with @CarolJSRoth.

 

You can “park” your name so nobody else can take it and not put up a page on a platform. That way, should this platform become relevant for you and your business in the future, you already have the name you want. This enables you to be more consistent with your branding across platforms.

 

Where are prospects looking for you?

A colleague of mine shared a facepalm moment about doing everything right in the wrong place. She spent years building up her Facebook and Twitter accounts, only to come to the realization that most prospects were looking for her services on LinkedIn – the platform she wasn’t focusing on. Oops!

 

Are your prospects’ preferences the same as yours? (Maybe... maybe not.)

Often, our customers are similar to us. Especially as service providers, we tend to see a need or address a pain point in a community that we know well.

 

Just because you don’t use or don’t enjoy a certain platform doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be active on it. If you’re in a business that has something that could be captured in pictures, you might need to be on Instagram.

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The “hot” platform will naturally change over time. For a long time, Pinterest was the rage. Then, Snapchat seemed to be taking over - now it’s Instagram Stories and Facebook Live.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: TOP SOCIAL SITES FOR ADVERTISING

 

Where else are prospects and customers looking for your product or service?

Don’t know where people are looking for your product or service? Ask them.

 

Have you considered sending out a survey or making the question part of your sales process? You might be surprised by the responses you receive. Then, you can evaluate if it makes sense for you to add that platform to your marketing strategy.

 

In addition, you can see what websites are sending traffic to your website by reviewing your analytics.

 

So, what’s the right answer? What social media platforms should you use? It will vary by industry, company size, marketing budget and revenue goals.

 

What I will tell you is that you need to jealously guard your time and not jump at the next shiny object, or in this case, new social media platform.

 

Social media can be a great marketing and customer retention option but only if it’s done correctly and consistently. Putting up a page and never updating it can damage your brand.

 

And, as always, putting in time and effort leads to better results.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

What kind of social media marketing do you do to promote your small business? If you’re like a lot of small businesses, you use it primarily for organic marketing – sharing content, posting images, and interacting with your followers, all for free. And that’s definitely a vital part of any solid marketing strategy.

 

But in recent years, the importance – and effectiveness – of paid social media advertising has skyrocketed to the point where it can’t be ignored. If you want to maximize your efforts on social media, then paid advertising is without question the way to go. And luckily, it can be done without breaking the bank.

 

Social.pngWith so many different social media platforms out there, though, how do you know which ones to spend your marketing dollars on? Just because you have an organic presence on several different sites doesn’t mean you should be advertising on all of them.

 

Before you decide which social media sites to advertise on, it’s important to understand where your target audience can be found online. Here’s a breakdown of the top sites to help you decide.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

FACEBOOK

Fortunately, there’s one social media site that is hands down the best one for just about anyone to advertise on, and that’s Facebook. Whether you sell products or services, whether your business is B2B or B2C, whether you are targeting men or women, older or younger people - with almost 2 billion users, your target audience is on Facebook. And while they might not be actively looking for products or services while there, you can bet that they see and pay attention to the ads they see.

 

Why is that? Because of the incredible demographic targeting ability Facebook ads give you. The Facebook ad manager allows advertisers to narrow the audience for their ads by the usual demographic information – location, age, gender, etc. – but also by much more telling characteristics such as interests. You can narrow your audience down to vegetarian homeowners who have kids, or technology buffs in Montana who love opera. And when an ad lands in front of exactly the right audience, the results are nothing short of amazing.

 

TWITTER

Another social media giant with 328 million users, Twitter offers robust advertising capabilities, as well. While it’s no Facebook, it’s well worth a look from small business owners. By creating ads and promoting tweets, you can ensure that your posts show up in your target audience’s Twitter feeds, or in their results when they search for certain keywords or hashtags.

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So who hangs out on Twitter? According to research done by Tracx, mostly younger males, aged 18-29. So if your target demographic is in this group, then Twitter advertising just might be for you.

 

INSTAGRAM

Even though it’s comparatively the new kid on the block, Instagram already has 600 million users, and is uniquely positioned for advertising - over half of those users follow brands on Instagram! With this emphatic openness to content from businesses, ads are received especially well – and since Instagram is owned by Facebook, the ad interface works in a very similar way.

 

Who will you reach by advertising on Instagram? More women than men, and primarily the under-35 crowd. If you’re looking for female Millennials, you’ve come to the right place.

 

SNAPCHAT

Snapchat is one of the most popular social media platforms for Millennials – both men and women. Snapchat can reach 41 percent of all 18-34-year-olds in the United States on any given day. Snapchat Geofilter is arguably the most efficient and budget-friendly tool for small business owners. Geofilters are graphic overlays that capture where you are by using your phone’s location service. Whether you own a local coffee shop or an insurance company, Geofilters allow your customers to share where they are at – your business – with the rest of the world. This is a great tool to gain exposure for your business or an upcoming event.

 

PINTEREST

With 317 million users, Pinterest is another powerhouse for social media advertising. While it’s not a fit for every business, Pinterest ads reach an audience already primed to buy. In fact, if a customer visits your site from Pinterest, they are 10 percent more likely to make a purchase.

 

The demographics of Pinterest are overwhelmingly female, but evenly distributed among all age groups. Got a visually appealing product that you’re trying to market to women? Then you should definitely be advertising on Pinterest.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Harness the Power of Emotion in Social Media Marketing Campaigns

 

HOOTSUITE

Hootsuite is a great tool to use when you start advertising your business on multiple platforms. With Hootsuite’s platform, you can manage all your social media profiles on a single dashboard. In addition, Hootsuite allows you to schedule and automatically post social content to your profiles.

 

Basically, it all boils down to this: If you’re looking to advertise on social media, start with Facebook. Once you’ve gotten a feel for advertising there, add another social media site that fits your target demographics. Experiment with the right ads for each different platform, and soon you’ll be seeing some impressive results.

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngThe nation’s more than 80 million millennials – ranging from age 19 to 37 – are projected to spend more than baby boomers this year. Whether they’re consumers shopping for clothing or B2B buyers researching the best SaaS provider, your website is a critical factor in determining whether they buy from you or your competition.

 

Here are six warning signs your website might be driving millennial customers away.

 

1. It’s not mobile-first. It’s no secret millennials basically live on their smartphones. One-fourth look at their phones more than 100 times a day; half look at their phones more than 50 times a day. Overall, 25 percent of millennial consumers spend a whopping five hours a day on their phones, while 50 percent spend at least three hours scrolling and tapping. Takeaway: Your website needs to be not just mobile-friendly, but mobile first.

 

2. It takes too long. Millennials are efficient—they want to get in and out of your website as quickly as possible and accomplish their goals. Your job: Don’t put anything in their way that slows them down. That includes mobile pop-ups, too many layers of navigation or too many options. Ideally, they should be able to get where they want to go within one to three clicks. Include plenty of white space so buttons and links are easy to click on a smartphone. Takeaway: Make sure your site loads quickly—anything longer than two seconds is likely to drive millennials away.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

3. It’s inconsistent. Whether they’re using your mobile website, your desktop website or your mobile app, millennials expect a consistent look and feel throughout all channels. This generation expects to transition from one device to another without a hitch. In addition to consistent content and design, they want information they save or share on one device to be available on another, so they don’t have to reload a shopping cart or re-download a white paper when they switch from smartphone to desktop.


51914482_s.jpg4. It offers limited customer service. Millennials are used to customizing their experiences, so it’s no wonder more than three-fourths (77 percent) of them expect a wide variety of options for communicating with customer service representatives. While baby boomers may be content to pick up the phone and call you, 40 percent of millennials would prefer all customer service issues to be handled online. To keep this age group happy, your website should offer customer service by phone, email, chat or text. Don’t forget about FAQs; if you sell a complex product or service, consider adding a customer forum or knowledge base to the mix.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: WHY LOCAL SEO MATTERS MORE THAN EVER (AND 4 STEPS TO SUCCESS)

 

5. It doesn’t have enough information. Millennials may be efficient, but that doesn’t mean they’re content with getting minimal data. They carefully research every purchase, and if your website doesn't have the key information they want to decide, they’ll go elsewhere. To balance this need for data with millennials’ desire for simplicity, keep your design simple, but include links they can click through for additional product photos, videos, spec sheets, comparisons, white papers and more.


6. It’s siloed from social. Millennials rarely make purchasing decisions without finding out what others think, whether that’s their friends in the next cubicle or influencers on Instagram. Your website should be intimately tied to your company’s social media presence so millennial customers can see what others are saying about you and get input on their potential purchases. Link your social media presence to your website, and vice versa, to engage millennial customers with your business.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN,The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. 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. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Shama Hyder Headshot.pngThink back over the last few years. Which three social media marketing campaigns – from any organization – do you remember?

 

There are probably a few funny ones. Most likely some related to issues you’re passionate about. And then there may be those that got you involved in some way – Ice Bucket Challenge! – creating and sharing a video or other content.

 

What’s the common thread among these campaigns? Leveraging the power of emotion to grab your attention and hold it – so much so, that you still remember it, even after all this time.

 

Marketing on social media today means cutting through the noise so your message is heard. And there’s no better way to stop a person from scrolling past your post or ad than to tap into their emotions. Here are a few ways you can do just that.

 

1. Get them laughing.

Anything that makes us laugh brings us joy. Any time laughter, fun, and joy are associated with your brand in your customers’ minds, you’re on the right track.

 

The key: find out what your target audience finds funny. A video that cracks a millennial up may leave a baby boomer confused, and vice versa. Stay-at-home moms of young children are likely to find different things funny than single college guys. Tap into the right kind of humor, and not only will your audience remember you – they’ll willingly promote you by sharing your content with their friends. 

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

2. Appeal to deeply-held values.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock – no, scratch that – even if you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you’ll still no doubt be aware of the polarizing political conversations that take place on social media. People care deeply about their core values and beliefs, whether political or otherwise, so emotions run high in these discussions.

 

55380956_s.jpgYou’ll want to tread extremely carefully here – these are issues and causes that people feel passionately about, whether for or against. But if you can find a core value that everyone in your target audience is likely to care deeply about, it’s a good bet that a marketing campaign around that topic will make you stick out in their minds as an ally for years to come.

 

3. Ramp up the excitement.

When you get excited about something, what do you do? Think about it and talk about it as much as possible, right? Well, that’s exactly the emotional state you want to trigger in your target audience. But it’s hard to get excited about something unless you’re personally involved.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE EMERGING TECH THAT COULD BOOST YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

 

So some kind of personal involvement is exactly what you’ll need to provide your audience. Get them to enter a contest or join a conversation by shooting a video, taking a photo or writing a joke. Ask them to tag their friends to ramp up the excitement even more. Once they put time and effort into creating content to engage with your brand, you can bet they’ll remember you with that same sense of excitement for years to come.

 

Getting your target audience laughing, appealing to their deeply held core values, and ramping up their excitement are three simple ways to grab attention amidst all the noise of social media marketing - and get them to keep your brand top of mind.       

      

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngUnless you've been under a rock the last week, you know ransomware attacks have lead to chaos across the globe. For those that don’t know, ransomware is a form of malicious software (malware) that infects and locks a computer. It can only be unlocked by paying a ransom to cybercriminals. Don’t pay and your files get erased.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

Most small business people tend to think, That’s a problem for someone else. I don’t need to worry about that. Wrong. Consider:

 

  • Gigabit Geek is a small business (an IT business no less!) that was hit by ransomware. The attack started with a single user reporting a missing file. Soon, almost all the company’s files were locked down. Gigabit refused to pay the ransom. Its files were erased. Gigabit then spent several weeks manually restoring its files from a backup.

 

  • The Sheriff’s office in Maine’s Lincoln County also got hit. Sherriff Todd Brackett didn’t want to pay the ransom either, but because of limited resources he soon paid. “We are cops,” he told NBC News. “We generally don’t pay ransoms.”

 

  • In 2016, Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital was hit by a huge ransomware attack. “The malware locked access to certain computer systems,” according to a statement.  The hospital decided that “the quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions was to pay the ransom.”

 

Cybercrimes, especially ransomware, have been growing in frequency and in severity in recent years, and the newest, biggest targets are small businesses for a very simple reason: a small business is unlikely to have the security system of a major corporation, but is more likely to have more money to pay up than a nonaffiliated individual.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE EMERGING TECH THAT COULD BOOST YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

 

Because of this, small business owners must be extra careful vigilant as the effects of such attacks can be devastating. Here’s what you need to know:

 

71802534_s.jpgHow does ransomware work?


Ransomware is a form of malware that functions solely to encrypt your files. Ransomware viruses can get onto your computer via deceptive email attachments or infected website links. After the link or attachment has been opened, the virus installs on the computer and can spread across the network. Once the virus encrypts your files, your computer goes into total lockdown mode.

 

What happens next?

From this point forward, a timer starts clicking. The user will be given instructions on how to pay the ransom in an allotted amount of time, usually 72 hours. If you don’t pay, all encrypted files will be deleted.

 

The ransom is typically required to be paid in Bitcoin currency, and is usually between $300 to $500. Cybercriminals try to keep the ransom within a semi-reasonable range so that the user is more likely to pay up.

 

What are your options?

Unfortunately, once your computer is infected, your options are both limited and undesirable. You can:

 

  • Pay the ransom.

 

  • Restore your computer and recover your files from a backup.

 

  • Recover and restore: If you have no file backups, then you can hire an IT pro and try and recover your computer and files.

 

How can you protect your business from ransomware?

The best way to protect your small business from ransomware attacks is to take preventative measures. The good news is that these measures are simple, cheap and easy:

 

  • Keep your antivirus software up-to-date.

 

  • Educate your staff about ransomware. Show your team what phishing emails and links look like so that nothing gets clicked or opened in the first place.

 

  • Backup all your files, and keep your backups up-to-date. You can do this with online cloud software or with a good old-fashioned external hard drive.

 

About Steve Strauss

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 Ask 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 informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Shama Hyder Headshot.pngFor small businesses, the quick pace of change in technology can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it can be frustrating to buy the latest device or software solution, only to find out a few months later that it’s already outdated. On the other hand, those constant developments have made it possible for small businesses to have access to technology that significantly simplifies, enhances - and sometimes even makes possible - the way they do business, and at an affordable price. 

 

While it won’t have too much of an impact on your business to stick with version 5.0 when 6.0 was just released, it is important to keep an eye on the big picture and stay up to date with emerging tech trends. For an example, you don’t have to look any further than your child’s smartphone – augmented reality didn’t seem ready to hit the mainstream anytime soon until Pokemon Go burst onto the scene. Now experts are discussing its B2B uses.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

New developments like these can impact your business significantly, whether you’re actually using the latest tech or not. To help keep you on trend, here are some of the emerging technologies already beginning to disrupt business as usual. 

 

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI was once the stuff of movies, but it’s now being utilized in various ways across different industries. Think IBM’s Watson’s “cognitive dress,” created for the 2016 Met Gala, that changed colors based on the emotions expressed in tweets about the gala in real-time - or H&R Block’s new tax time solution that incorporates Watson in order to hyper-customize taxpayers’ filing experience.

 

AI doesn’t mean sentient robots – at least not yet. What it does mean is that customers will soon look for - and then come to expect – company websites, brick and mortar stores, products and solutions that feature “cognitive” capabilities that make every consumer experience customized and effortless. Sites or solutions that make them do all the work will soon seem too much of a hassle to deal with.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SMALL BUSINESS’ FACEBOOK PAGE

 

2. Internet of Things. What began simply with a smart thermostat and a few cars with Wi-Fi, is now blossoming into a full-blown tech revolution. Home automation is no longer a futuristic scenario – customers can tell Alexa to play their favorite music, ask Google Home to turn their lights off, and use their smartphones to monitor their home’s security from anywhere.

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So when they come to work or get ready to make a purchase, those customers will expect no less than the same level of connectedness from the companies they work for and do business with. From shipment tracking to customer service, the “smarter” your processes and tools, the better. Using any method less efficient than smart automation tech will soon seem as inconceivable as not having a website.      

 

3. Virtual Reality. VR is not just for gaming anymore. While it was first introduced as a novelty that gave some people motion sickness, virtual reality has now developed to the point where it’s being used successfully in business applications such as remote real estate tours, construction design and virtual event attendance.

 

While the big names in VR gear, like the Oculus Rift, may be too expensive for some, there are many affordable headsets that simply require the user to insert their smartphone, that virtual reality apps are destined to become a game changer soon. Why spend time and money travelling or creating a physical model of something, when VR allows your customers and employees to have the same experience?

 

By starting to incorporate elements of AI, the internet of things, and virtual reality into your business model today, you’ll already be at the forefront of your industry when that technological tipping point is reached.

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Needless to say, Facebook is one of the top social media sites out there and as such, is likely quite important for your business. That then begs the question: Have you refreshed your Facebook page recently (or worse, do you even have one)? If not, you need to really consider giving your Facebook a refresh because it very well may be the most essential social media platform in your small business toolbox.

 

Just look at the numbers:

  • Facebook has more monthly users
  • That monthly number now tops 1.1 billion
  • And that is nearly an entire billion more than Twitter or LinkedIn, which host 310 million and 255 million active users per month, respectively.

 

So yes, in this social media world, Facebook is that important. How then do you make your Facebook page relevant, how do you make it stand out?

 

Here’s how:

 

Make it personal: As a small business owner, you already know that one of our real advantages is that we can be, generally speaking, more friendly and approachable than our corporate cousins. Indeed, merely by being the semantic opposite of “big business,” we small businesses are granted a certain level of trustworthiness by consumers.

 

And frankly, that friendliness should be reflected in our Facebook as well. You have to think of it as an extension of your approachable, friendly brand. 

When looking at your business’s Facebook page, it’s a good idea to ask yourself a few key questions:

 

  • Does this look like a page that will make people want to interact, or do we seem too robotic?
  • Is the information easy to navigate?
  • Is our page visually eye-catching?
  • Is it updated often enough?

 

It is important to choose a custom URL, a recognizable profile photo, and a relevant, aesthetically appealing cover photo across the top of your page. Most importantly, remember to include your location, hours of operation, and a catchy, brief paragraph about your business in the ‘About’ section (this sounds obvious enough, but you would be surprised by how many new small businesses neglect this step). These are the key ingredients for establishing a well-liked page.

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

Getting your page ‘liked’ is only the first step; the second step is to make sure that your followers are consistently interacting with your business and coming back for more. The best way to do this is to post regularly, daily if possible (see below). It is also vital to like and reply to comments as that creates the all-important “engagement”.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

You can also consider hosting a Live Stream video session that your followers can watch live, or later if they missed it. This new Facebook Live feature helps you interact in real time with your fans and puts a friendly, relatable face to your business’s name – again, one of the most significant distinctions between your small business and some other big business.

 

Make sure your page gets seen: With so many users and pages on Facebook, you need to make sure that yours stands out. Doing so is actually pretty easy. As mentioned, your main Facebook duty is to post daily updates that are noticeable and engaging. This is actually the fun part.

 

Here are a few suggestions for making quality Facebook posts:

  • Advertise your sales, specials, or new products
  • Use photos and videos – these are considered to be the most engaging type of Facebook content
  • Post surveys or polls – people love sharing their opinions
  • Announce contests, giveaways, and events

 

As long as your posts are entertaining and welcoming, people are sure to hit ‘like’ and continue to see what your small business has to offer. Gaining likes and comments are important in nurturing a personable brand, and these interactions oftentimes appear on the commenter’s friends’ Newsfeeds, a la “Jane Doe commented on Small Business’s photo”. This is essentially the Internet version of word-of-mouth advertising, which of course is the best advertising there is.

 

If you would like your posts to reach an even wider audience, you can always pay to ‘Boost’ your posts, or even your entire page. The span of your page’s reach will depend on how much you decide to pay, but it can be as cheap as just a couple bucks. And of course, it looks good to have a lot of likes (even if you have to pay for a few of them).

 

Finally, after you have made some progress with your Facebook page, you should check out the ‘Insights’ tab at the top of your page. You will be presented with graphs and charts that measure your posts’ performance over the past day, week, or 28 days. This tool will help you make decisions about what works for your small business.

 

Good luck, and happy Facebooking!

 

About Steve Strauss

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 Ask 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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles 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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

How important is LinkedIn to your professional and/or small business success? Consider this: when someone Googles you, oftentimes the first thing they find is your LinkedIn profile. Try it and find out.

 

If you haven’t thought about LinkedIn for a while, you should. For some of us, using LinkedIn is second nature but for most that’s not the case. But the fact is, a solid LinkedIn page is vital to establishing one’s professional identity.

 

So here are a few tips and tricks to make sure that people like what they see on your LinkedIn:

 

1. Begin with the basics: You want to paint the most vivid picture of yourself as a professional that you possibly can. For starters, that means there should be no blank spaces to be found on your profile.

More specifically:

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

  • Include all relevant contact information – email address, all social media pages, your business’s website, your personal website, etc.
  • Create a custom headline. Your headline is what shows up to the right of your profile photo; in other words, it is likely to be the second thing people will see (your profile picture comes first) when they click on your name. Share who you are and what you’re about in a pithy, catchy way.
  • Create a custom URL with your name in it. This builds your personal brand and helps connections find you with ease.

 

2. Beef up your profile: You want your LinkedIn profile to be robust and interesting. It is especially important that the first paragraph outlines exactly what you want people to know about you as it’s what people will see and read first (and what Google sees first). Your summary and work experiences should be crisp, free of error, and display a balance of personality and professionalism.

 

Make sure to add a relevant and attractive background photo, education information, and foreign language skills. It also really helps to use different types of media - PDFs, videos, links, etc. This makes your page much more visual and dynamic.

 

Be sure to add in any new and important skills to your page – the ones that best represent your most important strengths and assets. Don’t be shy about mentioning these skills repetitively throughout your profile; they are keywords that stand out to employers, connections, and customers alike. As you likely know, your connections will also be able to endorse you for those skills, at your request or by their own volition. Having a collection of skill endorsements on your profile looks impressive and will help your page get more views.

 

3. Keep it personal: Remember that your LinkedIn profile is a tool to build personalized human-to-human professional connections; it is not a formal resume. This may feel like a fine line to walk, as you certainly do want to showcase your skills and achievements in a professional manner but you also want to make sure that your personality shines through:

    • Write in the first person, NOT third person. This helps keep things both casual and professional.
    • Mention hobbies, family, etc. – things that keep you busy and happy outside of work.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

4. Do not underestimate your profile photo: Your profile picture is one of the first things people see when they’re on your page (as is the case when walking into a room) and constitutes 19% of the total time recruiters spend looking at your page. Furthermore, your page is 14 times more likely to be viewed if you have a profile picture.

 

Make sure the photo is of you and you only (no friends, no logos) and that you are in front of a solid background. Also make sure that you’re not wearing sunglasses or anything else that distracts too much, that the photo resolution is clear and sharp, and, of course, that the photo is flattering. Smile. And here’s a great tip: If you aren’t looking straight at the camera, then make sure you are only slightly turned to the right – that is, toward the information on your profile. This is a psychological trick to direct people’s gaze toward your page instead of away.

 

5. Branch out: Once your profile is polished, then you can start adding new connections and branching out. Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to you and your small business, make new contacts, and continue to stay active and network. It all goes towards making you and your small business more well-known.

 

LinkedIn is one of the easiest, most useful, and effective tools at your disposal to help grow your small business – if you take advantage of it.

 

About Steve Strauss

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 Ask 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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles 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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Instagram_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

In August, Instagram introduced Stories, its own version of one of Snapchat’s most popular features. Users create Stories by selecting a series of images that are displayed montage style, and can be augmented with text or graphics. Stories exist for only 24 hours. Instagram has recently moved the Stories feature so it can now be found in the Explore tab.

 

Since their launch, Stories have proven to be one of Instagram’s most popular features. Nearly 100 million users watch Stories daily, representing a third of Instagram’s user base. In an effort to attract even more views, Instagram is reportedly experimenting with adding Live Video functionality to Stories.

 

Creating compelling Instagram stories

Nearly half of the top 200 companies on the Fortune 500 are active on Instagram. The brands that have been most successful on the platform include Nike, Red Bull, and Mercedes Benz. They all share a similar storytelling strategy: rather than focus directly on their products and services, these brands create stories focused on the lifestyle their fans admire. Nike’s Stories include athletic accomplishments, while Red Bull features more extreme adventures. The Mercedes Benz feed features Stories illustrating the thrills that come with driving a luxury car through winding European mountain roads.

 

This strategy is definitely scalable for small businesses. While your company may not have Red Bull’s budget to host and cover cliff diving events, it’s more than possible to create Stories based on actual events happening in and around your community that appeal to your target market.

 

Instagram_PQ.jpgPromoting sales and product launches

The ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories makes them the ideal vehicle to promote flash sales and other promotional events. The retailer J. Crew had great success using Stories to promote their new Jane in Pink sunglasses. During a limited-time sale, the J. Crew team posted Stories featuring models wearing the sunglasses as they went about their day.  Sales of the glasses immediately spiked and remained strong even after the Story was gone from view.

 

But it’s important for small businesses to understand how much work goes into running a flash sale successfully. Creating the Instagram Story is only a part of this campaign. Any small business with an e-commerce platform must ensure their website, particularly the shopping cart functionality, is working flawlessly in advance of launch. Stories’ position on the Explore tab means your content can be seen by many people in addition to your normal follower base. You want to be prepared in case your offer resonates with these additional viewers.

 

Cross promotion is key

To realize full value from your Instagram Stories, you want to make sure to promote them across Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms you utilize. You may also want to feature the imagery used in Instagram Stories on your website. Messaging apps are powerful tools to use to drive customers to flash sales being hosted on Instagram. Make sure the path to purchase is extremely clear for these users.

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

So, you’ve finally reached your goal of 5,000 or 10,000 followers (or however many it may be) on social media – fantastic! Congrats. That’s a big deal. But it’s also not enough. Sure, having several thousand followers looks great for your small business, but that number can’t actually do you much good if few of those followers are actually looking at your posts.

 

Luckily for you, there are solutions. Strengthening your follower engagement may seem like a tricky task. You can’t exactly force someone to engage with you on social media, however like most things in this digital world there is an algorithmic method to the madness.

All you need to know are these two key ingredients:

 

1. Increase your visibility

 

Increasing your visibility is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a matter of becoming more visible to the human eye while scrolling through any given social media news feed. Remember, most social media users follow hundreds – even thousands – of other accounts. You need to make sure that your small business doesn’t get lost among the pixels.

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

Generally speaking, the most effective means of increasing your social media visibility is simply to never underestimate the value of good content. Don’t get lazy. Post regularly, of course, but it’s more important to make sure that your posts are consistently eye-catching and engaging.

 

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Here are some of the best tips on how to make that happen:

 

  • Include links in your posts. According to Forbes, Tweets with links get retweeted more than those without.
  • Use relevant hashtags that you think other users are likely to search for. Posts with hashtags get double the engagement.
    • P.S. hashtags are not Twitter exclusive! Take advantage of them on all of your social media platforms.
  • Use images in your posts. The human eye is naturally attracted to pictures and colors, so using images is sure to increase your visibility on any given social media platform. There is research to back this up.
  • Ask for retweets or shares. Data suggests that the phrase “please retweet” can actually generate up to 4 times as many retweets.
  • Vary your posts. Your followers might scroll right past you if your posts become clockwork, predictable and homogenous. Don’t be afraid to post a pithy inspirational quote that is harmonious with your brand and purpose – these are always popular retweets for others.
  • Don’t be afraid to repostthings that you’ve already shared. Apparently, the “lifespan” of any given Tweet is only around 18 minutes, so posting it multiple times is sure to reach as many users as possible and increase your overall visibility.

 

2. Personally interact with your followers

 

Having good visibility on social media platforms will give you maximum results when supplemented with regularly reaching out to, and personally interacting with, your followers.

 

Don’t worry, it’s easy:

  • Make sure your tone is friendly. Nobody is interested in talking to a robot.
  • Reply to tweetsand comments that come your way. People like to feel special and listened to. Make sure to tag them with their @username.
  • Reply to questions and complaints. Nowadays, quick and excellent customer service can be easy and is expected.
  • Ask rhetorical questions. Even if you are not talking to any one follower specifically, phrases like “how many of you folks have wished there was an easier way to…” will invite lots of engagement.
  • Ask your followers sincerely about certain things they would like to see your small business do, or maybe how they would do things differently. Your followers will appreciate the humility and enjoy the opportunity to share their thoughts – even better, you will receive valuable feedback that you can use.
  • Thank people for following you. And if you would like, feel free to follow them back.
  • Get creative. Start contests that require people to retweet or tag you. For example, offer discounts to the first 50 retweets.

 

The great thing about social media is that you have the freedom to completely do things your own way. Be visible, interact, and put your best foot forward. Your business will be all the better for it – and you can be sure people will be sharing about how much they love it!

 

About Steve Strauss

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 Ask 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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles 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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

I have social media good news and bad news for you today.

 

The good news is that it seems as though most of us small business owners have finally mastered the art of Facebook and Twitter. That’s necessary and great.

 

The bad news is that you’re not done.

 

If you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to hear is that you need to figure out yet another social media platform. Sometimes it may seem like the latest and greatest in social media keeps bombarding us and piling up like so many unread emails.

 

However, if you have been paying attention you know that aside from the holy trinity that is Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, there is a new kid on the block – Instagram.

 

Instagram is a social networking app that allows you to share photos and videos from a smartphone and is a great way to tap into a younger demographic. Instagram is similar to Facebook and Twitter in that you will create a profile and have a newsfeed. Your Instagram poSteve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngsts will be displayed on your profile, people who follow you will see your posts in their feed and you will see their posts in yours.

 

If you can use Facebook or Twitter, then you can absolutely use Instagram.

 

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Here’s how to started:

 

1.  Sign up for an Instagram account.

 

2. Choose a recognizable username and profile photo, and make your “bio” pithy and snappy: Don’t forget that we are living in the age of the short attention span. In which case, your Instagram bio should not have a corporate feel, full of detailed description of your business with bullet points and sub-clauses galore. Instead, a catchy sentence or two, an unambiguous username, and a profile photo that speaks for itself are the foundational building blocks of any high-traffic Instagram page.

 

3. As always with social media, provide engaging content: In the Instagram world, “providing engaging content” roughly translates to:

    • Post regularly, if not daily.
    • Add captions to all photos in a tone that best represents your brand. Feel free to use all the hashtags you want, as they are equally as effective for networking as they are on Twitter.
    • Provide a rich variety of posts – photos and videos. (Pro-tip: Download the Boomerang app to create short, looping GIFs, and download Layout to create photo collages. Instagram is the parent company of both apps, so the GIFs and collages are quite compatible).
    • Make your posts aesthetically pleasing. Don’t go too crazy with filters and don’t post poor quality or blurry photos.

 

4. Interact with followers and customers: According to a study from Elite Daily, 62% of Millennials say that brand engagement on social media makes them more loyal customers. And because Millennials make up a huge portion of total Instagram users, this statistic matters.

 

Here are a few ways to personalize and foster that online brand-customer relationship:

  • Reply to comments on your posts, and make sure to tag usernames – otherwise, those users won’t be notified of your response.
  • Create a fun and welcoming cyber-atmosphere by inviting customers to be engaged with your Instagram page. This could mean starting a hashtag for customers to use, or asking your Instagram followers to participate in fun polls about their favorite products.
  • Respond to customer complaints and to customer praise.

 

5. Have fun with it: Get creative and don’t be afraid to think outside the box:

    • Give your followers a behind-the-scenes look at how things run in-house. Who doesn’t want to be VIP?
    • Incentivize engagement by holding contests – e.g., “post a photo at our restaurant with the hashtag #hashtag, and we’ll pick our favorite. Winner gets a $10 gift card!”
    • Have too much leftover food at the end of the day? Post about it on Instagram and offer a discount to the customer who gets there first.

 

Darwin has long since proved that it is not the strongest species that survive, but the ones that can best adapt to external change.

On your mark, get set, evolve!

 

About Steve Strauss

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 Ask 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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles 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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Jennifer Shaheen.GoogleInventory_Body.jpg

One of the biggest challenges small business owners face is bridging the gap between online interest and in store sales. The situation is particularly tough for independent retailers, who often don’t have the name recognition or massive advertising budgets larger chain stores enjoy. Google and Facebook have each put forward their own version of a marketing tool that can help level the playing field: local inventory ads.

 

Local inventory ads allow retailers to show customers online which items are in stock and in what quantity. If a customer is interested, they are directed to the retailer’s landing page, where the store owner has the option of making the item available in three different ways: purchase online, buy online-pick up in store, or in store only.

 

These options are important. While interest in online purchasing remains strong, surveys show that customers remain committed to in-person shopping. In May, Salesforce surveyed U.S. consumers to determine where they preferred to buy certain types of products. More than two-thirds of all customers preferred to purchase apparel and accessories, footwear, home goods, jewelry and similar products in person.

 

At the same time, customers are increasingly doing their initial product discovery and research online. Sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms give consumers a quick and easy way to identify products they’d like to purchase. Pinterest is particularly powerful: last year, the platform reported that users began saving images of products they’d like to receive for holiday gifts four months in advance. Further, the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that 76 percent of mobile users have clicked on at least one ad they’ve seen while they’re on social media.

 

GoogleInventory_PQ.jpgHelping customers make the purchase

Once customers have searched for the products they’re interested in, retailers can use local inventory ads from Google and Facebook to make the purchase process as easy and convenient as possible. For instance, Google local inventory ads show searchers what nearby retailers have items in stock. If a customer is interested, they are directed to the retailer’s landing page to purchase the item in the way that’s most convenient.

 

Facebook’s dynamic advertising tool is a newer offering. These ads also highlight inventory available at local stores, using carousel style image displays to show several different products at once. Retailers can tag their ads using relevant keywords. Facebook is using these tags in conjunction with mobile device users’ location data to target the ads appropriately. Unlike Google local inventory ads, which allow retailers to set a budget ahead of time, Facebook dynamic advertising currently charges retailers after the fact, based on the number of times the ads were served to nearby shoppers. Be aware that if you’re located in a shopping mall or dense urban area, you may not have access to Facebook dynamic advertising, as the development team hasn’t yet worked out how to determine whether people in your vicinity are active shoppers or just random foot traffic.

 

Customers use both search engines and social media interchangeably to find products they want. With that in mind, small retailers should consider making use of the local inventory advertising opportunities that exist on both Google and Facebook. If you want to choose just one, experts recommend looking at your website analytics to determine where the majority of your traffic is coming from, and invest there first.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

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