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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.

 

Social media.jpg

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.

Carol Roth Headshot for post.png

 

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.

Shama Hyder Headshot.png

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.

 

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

 

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.

 

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

 

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

Touchpoint

How To Do A Podcast

Posted by Touchpoint Sep 9, 2016

Podcasts_Body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

Simply put, a podcast is an audio file that is available for listening or downloading through a web-enabled platform, such as Apple's popular iTunes store or even through your own company website. Strategically, a podcast provides genuinely useful content to prospects without the overt sales pitch found in traditional forms of promotion.

 

The audience for podcasts is small but growing. According to a survey by Edison Research, the number of Americans above the age of 12 who listened to any type of recent podcast jumped from 12 percent in 2013 to 21 percent today.

 

Small businesses that catch on to this wave can gain an edge over their competitors. Digital Trends, an online service that covers technology news, has these recommendations for producing your own podcast.  

 

1. Pick a theme for your podcast

Your podcast needs to be about something. Find a topic that you are ardently interested in and make that the core of your program. The focus can be as narrow or as broad as you want. For example, a manufacturer of heavy-duty construction equipment could discuss the state of the construction industry across the country or concentrate just on the equipment itself. The key is to be passionate and informed about the subject.

 

Podcasts_PQ.jpg2. Settle on a format and schedule

Each show in your podcast series should clock in at roughly the same length. Podcasts typically range from a few minutes to a maximum of 60 minutes. You should also decide on the frequency of your podcasts. Most come out weekly or bi-weekly. Choose a length and schedule that you can stick with comfortably.

 

3. Prepare a script

Even if you want your podcast to sound improvised or spontaneous, you should still write some type of script outline to keep the show on track. For shows that have multiple segments or a variety of speakers, an outline can also make your transitions smooth.

 

4. Choose your recording software

A small business does not have to invest a lot of money in sophisticated recording equipment. There are a few free alternatives that will do the job. Digital Trends recommends starting with Audacity, an open-source editing and recording program, or Acoustica Basic Edition.

 

5. Choose your microphones and headphones

"In all reality, podcasters should consider purchasing an external microphone," Digital Trends says. "USB mics, such as the CAD 37 and Fifine USB Plug & Play, plug directly into your computer and interface with your recording software, thus offering superior sound and greater flexibility than your computer's built-in microphone." Make sure every podcast member has his or her own mic. For headphones, Digital Trends says that any reliable pair is all you need.

 

6. Record your show

Don't get discouraged if you suffer a few bumps during your first podcast. Even the pros experience glitches. Get the show recorded and improve your methods as you go along.

 

7. Make your podcast available through a hosting service

A podcast needs to be hosted in order for people to access it. WordPress and Blogger let you host your audio files free of charge, but they don't offer much flexibility, according to Digital Trends. HostGator charges a modest fee, but provides more options.

 

Producing a regularly scheduled podcast might be intimidating at first, but small business owners who take the leap may find it an exciting way to build an audience of loyal listeners and future customers.

 

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

By Jennifer Shaheen

 

RFID_Body.jpgRFID technology is absolutely pervasive throughout modern life, yet many people are unaware of its existence. If you’ve had your pet microchipped to ensure its safety, have an EZ Pass or other electronic toll payment system on your car, or have made a purchase at a large chain store, RFID chips were involved.

 

Over 50 percent of U.S. retailers use RFID as part of their operations, according to GS1 US, a non-profit organization devoted to standardizing supply chain best practices. Industry observer Mark Roberti, writing for RFID Journal, reports that RFID is “a technology beginning to build critical mass in retail.” While big brands have been using RFID for a while, adoption by smaller businesses has been slower. However, opting out entirely may not be a viable option much longer, as this technology provides significant cost-savings benefits that can’t be ignored.

 

What is RFID?

RFID stands for radio-frequency identification. A RFID system is composed of small, scannable tags that contain information about the item they’re attached to, as well as a reader—similar to a bar code scanner—and the software that makes everything work. To use the system, tagged items must be scanned as they move throughout a system, from manufacturer to warehouse to the sales floor through purchase.

 

While some RFID tags are removable, the technology is trending toward smaller and smaller tags that are intended to remain part of the item permanently. Luxury clothing makers are currently experimenting with RFID tags that are thread-sized, meaning they can be woven into a garment as lasting proof of identity. In situations where counterfeit products are a concern, an RFID tag can prove that the customer is truly getting what they’ve

paid for.

 

RFID_PQ.jpg

RFID makes omnichannel marketing possible

Brands have a constantly expanding set of sales channels available to them, including selling in the store, through a website, on social media, through text messages and more. To provide a seamless sales experience for your customer, it’s essential to have very robust inventory control systems in place.

 

RFID tags make it very simple to know what you have and where you have it, in real time. This makes rapid order fulfillment possible, while preventing selling the same item to multiple customers. They also make it possible to offer “buy online, pick up in store” functionality to your customer, an increasingly popular option with today’s shoppers. As smaller retailers work to remain competitive in the marketplace, RFID systems will clearly be an essential part of their operations.

 

Cost controls with RFID

Many retailers use RFID tags as a loss-prevention tool, tagging very expensive, small items to prevent customers from walking away with them. RFID tags can be used to track other items as well, from file folders to tractor trailers, minimizing the amount of time your team needs to spend locating items. RFID tags can also be attached to sensors to let you know your inventory is being stored appropriately—such as on a thermometer to ensure frozen products are kept at an acceptably cold temperature. What started as a technology option for larger companies is quickly becoming affordable for smaller companies as well.

 

 

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

CashFlow_Body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

Next to a business plan and a mission statement, cash flow management is one of the most important elements of small business success. With well-managed cash flow, a small business can more easily handle surprise expenses or a slump in sales.

 

“Proper cash flow will keep the business running when there are mismatches in receipts and disbursements,” says San Diego, California-based CPA Thomas E. Huckabee. “If you’re losing money, you’ll be okay until you start making money.”

 

To ensure stability through your business’s peaks and valleys, follow these tips:

 

1. Understand your breakeven point

Your breakeven point is the minimum amount of sales you need to pay your expenses. Knowing your breakeven point helps to project future cash flow. It also will show you when your sales equal—or surpass—your expenses.

 

2. Monitor often

Huckabee recommends that businesses develop a 12-month cash flow projection at least once a month. A cash flow projection lists cash revenues, disbursements, and identifies cash surpluses and shortfalls before they happen. During lean times, businesses may want to monitor on a weekly basis. Create an annual cash flow projection for years two and three to prepare for crises before they happen.

 

CashFlow_PQ.jpg3. Receive receivables promptly

An international survey of B2B payment behavior from credit insurer Atradius reported that United States businesses lose 51.9 percent of their receivables value when not paid within 90 days of the due date. To improve your receivables, use the following strategies:

 

• Take deposits from customers when you take the order or sign an agreement.

• Take credit cards. “You may lose two to four percent in transaction fees, but you get money in the door faster,” says Huckabee.

• Establish a collection policy—and follow it. Outline when to make the first call about a late invoice, when to follow up, and when to send an overdue invoice to collections.

 

4. Don’t pay bills early.

Pay vendors as close to the due date as possible without risking late fees. “If you’ve got cash in your bank account, you can make different choices than if you don’t,” says Huckabee. Take advantage of early payment discounts if you have strong cash flow. If you’re in a tight spot, try to extend payment from Net 30 to Net 45 when possible.

 

5. Plan for shortfalls

With accurate cash flow projections, you can identify times when shortfalls occur. Plan for these times. Keep some cash reserves in your bank account. Talk to your bank about a loan or line of credit before a shortfall occurs. Ask vendors and suppliers for an extension where you can.

 

6. Be honest with yourself

If a new client insists on taking 90 days to pay, and the delay will hurt your cash flow, find another client. If you have to send an unpaid invoice to a collections agency, don’t work with that customer again. “That’s one of the hardest things for business owners to do,” Huckabee says of turning away a customer. “But for good cash flow, you have to stick to your policies.”

 

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.


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