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Most small business owners have a lot of responsibilities, so making time for social media marketing can be a challenge.

 

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One of the best ways for a small business to stay on top of their social media activities is also the most logical one: planning. Plan your social media calendar, prepare your posts, and then schedule everything either via a calendar system or automatic posting.

 

When you set aside time to batch your social media marketing production, you can focus on other deadlines and time-sensitive responsibilities.

 

Planning Your Content

 

Depending on your business’s level of social media involvement, plan to post a minimum of once a day on the primary social media channels you currently use: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter. Retail and restaurants may post more in the evenings and weekends. Professional services will likely keep a Monday through Friday schedule. Media-related businesses might post multiple times a day.

 

In addition to your posting schedule, you also should factor in time for engagement and interactions. For instance, replying to comments and direct messages on your social accounts, sharing/retweeting/reposting, and proactively commenting on other people’s content.

 

Before you start planning your social media calendar, consider the different categories of content you want to post.

 

  • Marketing and Promotional Campaigns: Note the dates of any promotions, sales, events or other marketing efforts. Then, work backwards when you create your social media calendar. In most cases, you’ll want to introduce a campaign several weeks or months in advance, and then increase the frequency of content leading up to, during and immediately following the event. Beyond time-bound campaigns, mix in fun content that informs while promoting your business.

 

  • Partnerships and Philanthropies: In addition to posting about your business, you want to give social media exposure to your alliances. These could include favorite resources, advertisers, strategic alliances and causes. Your clients and followers look to you for recommendations and resources. Include posts that highlight other (non-competing) businesses, people and customers. 

 

  • Seasons and Holidays: This can include national, international and unique. There are plenty of notable days and seasons that may be relevant to your business, including but not limited to the traditional calendar. Small Business Saturday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year, Easter, tax season and back to school are all just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many fun, educational and inspiring themes for every week, month and day of the year! Go through a variety of nontraditional calendars and create content you can post on those days, weeks and months. Don’t forget to use hashtags to improve visibility of these posts. Some calendars to review include unique holidays, food holidays, on this day, and pet days.

 

  • Anecdotes and user-generated content: Round out your content mix with stories about your business, clients and fans. This can range from behind-the-scenes and history of your company posts to testimonials and user-generated content. These types especially benefit from a graphic component. A great way to do this is through Instagram Stories. Instagram recently launched a new camera and ‘Create’ mode that makes it even easier to generate content and invite engagement.

 

  • News and Trends: While you can’t plan the specifics of news and trends, you can make room for it in your posting schedule. Leave a few spots each week, or month, for industry news and trending content. Sometimes something unexpected will come into play and other times you may need to fill in with a previous popular post. Although it sounds counterintuitive, being flexible leads to successful planning.

 

Once you have a mix of concepts and ideas, create your posts and set your schedule.

 

Content Calendars

 

You can plan your calendar anywhere from one month to a quarter to six months in advance.

 

The easiest way to plan your content is to go old-school and use a spreadsheet. Or, create a new Google calendar to create and track posts. Or, find an online solution.

 

  • Spreadsheet Calendar. Columns to include: Date to Post, Type, Reason, Title, Description, Link (you will later add the link for tracking purposes), Image(s) (description or link to folder), Platform, Engagement notes. 

 

  • Google Calendar. Hit the + sign next to Other Calendars and use it for your content.

 

Wave Video has a useful free social calendar with post ideas and templates. As a bonus, you can sync it with your calendar! (Google, iCal or Outlook).

 

Scheduling Tools

 

For Facebook and Instagram, you have a totally free native option right in your Creator Studio. This tool allows you to schedule posts for your Facebook business page, Instagram business profile and IGTV.

 

For all other social platforms, I strongly recommend making good use of a third-party scheduling tool.

 

  • Agorapulse is a one-stop dashboard for social media management that enables you to schedule, reschedule, queue or bulk upload your posts. They also have excellent social listening and community management features. Agorapulse offers a free 28-day trial and friends of Mari can save 20% off any monthly plan for your first full year with code: marisave20. Also, check out their free social media tools. [Full disclosure: Mari Smith is an enthusiastic brand ambassador for—and long-time power user of—Agorapulse.]

 

  • ContentCal is a beautiful, visual calendar perfect for planning, scheduling and auto-publishing your social media content. Among other terrific features, their sweet spot is intuitive workflow processes which comes in handy when you have multiple team members creating, curating, scheduling and approving your social posts. Friends of Mari can save 20% on the Company Plan, monthly or annual options with code MARI20.

 

Additional scheduling tools to look into include Hootsuite, Buffer, PostPlanner, Edgar, CoSchedule and TweetDeck. Plus, there are platform-specific tools such as Tailwind for Pinterest and Instagram. And, Later, Planoly, PlannThat or PreviewApp for Instagram. Depending on the social channels you use most and particularly enjoy, you might be well served with a special tool just for that app.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Social media planning and scheduling is a massive time-saver. Once you’ve laid the groundwork, you only need to be conscious of a few things.

 

  • Watch out for news to incorporate into your posts if relevant.
  • Avoid a PR snafu. For instance, if there is a natural disaster or (local or national) tragedy, you will want to cease regularly scheduled (especially upbeat) content.

 

 

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

 

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.

As Facebook increases its emphasis on community, now is a good time to explore groups for your business.

 

Small businesses can use groups to support their goals as community members turn to groups for information. Plus, groups can be used for specialty events, courses, selling and any number of things. It’s win-win.

 

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How to set up your Facebook group for business

 

     When you create a group for your business, do so with purpose.

 

    • Decide on the mission of your group: Is it to provide supplemental education related to your business or inform about your product? Is it a safe haven for people with a shared interest, related to your business?
    • Determine your group’s privacy levels: Is it public or private?
    • Create a content plan: Even if your group is to provide customer support, come up with a posting schedule that’s a mix of information and conversation starters. The more value your group provides, the more often people will visit… or bookmark your group.

 

Example: Stellar Media Marketing educates and trains people on Facebook Messenger marketing, and boasts a more than 90% active engagement rate in their Facebook group. Founder, Kelly Noble Mirabella, branded herself as the ‘80s-inspired high-energy Messenger marketing teacher. Members come to the group to watch the weekly training videos, win prizes, ask questions, and get support on how they can better serve and support their clients. Stellar Media Marketing has generated significant revenue as a direct result of uniting their community and providing value.

 

How to Use  Facebook groups for Business

 

There are as many ways to use groups as you can conjure. Think outside the box. Or put your own spin on someone else’s model.

 

Customer Support. Many businesses use Facebook groups to deliver prompt customer support. A dedicated team of knowledgeable moderators respond to member questions. And, often, peers will jump in with answers as well. Facebook offers features such as Units and Topic Tags for ease of sorting content. (Note: not all groups have the Topic Tabs feature yet.)

 

Users Groups. Companies such as Ecamm, Wave.video Community, ManyChat and others have created environments where group members share the best ways to use the company’s products while interacting with fellow users.

 

Live Show Companion Group. Does your business host a Facebook Live show or podcast on your page? Definitely consider creating a companion group for starting conversations. Get additional engagement from your group members by hosting a Watch Party of your Facebook Live show after the fact.

 

One of the best examples of the Page with a show + group combination is the  Facebook-produced Red Table Talk, with 6.5 million followers. And the companion group has almost 600k members. Although these numbers may seem large and unattainable to many small business owners, there’s still much we can learn from the format.

 

Supplementary Education. If you are in the business of educating others - a class or hobby - create a Facebook group to supplement your offerings. Community involvement and expert interaction will bump up the value, turning your customers into loyal, raving fans.

 

Pop-ups. Facebook groups are not always for long-term involvement. Create specific groups for special events and activities in order to share time-sensitive content and facilitate member interaction. Once the time period is over, you simply archive the group.

 

For instance, if you are planning a 7-day or 30-day challenge or contest, create a pop-up group for it. Additionally, you can create a group to support a specific event. Social Media Marketing World creates pop-up groups for their attendees, speakers, and paying Society members for each year’s conference.

 

A Group Case Study: Stages of the Sales Funnel

 

     Facebook groups can be helpful to any business as a part of the sales funnel.

 

    • Your group can be positioned as part of the “catch all” aspect of the business, where you try to get everyone into the group and then segment them out.
    • Your group can be at the middle of the funnel, where you invite people who are qualified and familiar with the brand.
    • Or use your group at the end of the funnel. In these instances, users receive membership in your group as part of their product/service purchase. This includes special access, extra value content, or as part of a monthly membership product.

 

         Bella Vasta created three related groups for her pet sitting and dog walking consulting agency.

 

    1. ToFu (top-of-funnel): Vasta has a general group she uses for her cold audience. This is for anyone who has a pet business around the world.
    2. MoFu (middle-of-funnel): Next is a smaller group just for pet businesses with staff. Here, she does pop-up programs and can test her community on launches and ideas her company might have coming down the pipeline.
    3. BoFu (bottom-of-funnel): Last is her paid monthly group. In this group, members get access to Vasta’s expertise, monthly trainings, a human resources expert, accountability partners, goal tracking, and more.

 

         Vasta, who generates more than six figures in revenue by operating these groups, says business owners contemplating using Facebook groups should not wait too long.

 

“Facebook groups are the new hot thing now,” she says, “and if there is one thing I do know about social media is that in the next few years, something else will emerge. Understand that this is a moment in time and if you want to see the best results, Facebook groups (plus Facebook Messenger) is what is really working these days.”

 

Facebook groups are a wonderful value-add for your business. And now is the perfect time to start!

 

    Read next:

 

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

 

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.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Protect your small business from cybercrooks with these tips for software and privacy protection.

 

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About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Running a small business means you have a thousand roles split between (often) just a few people. Very few small companies have a formal “IT Department” taking care of their technical needs and, as a result, resort to either a third-party support company or occasionally, the boss’s niece, who’s “good with computers.”

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It’s not like you need to follow every gee whiz technology trend that comes along, but there are a few changes you should make over the next twelve months if you haven’t already. None of these are especially expensive, and all of these have a hidden benefit of improving your business all the way around.

 

Switch to Cloud Storage and Backup

 

If you’ve seen commercials or read articles talking about “the cloud” when it comes to business and tech, they basically use the term to mean that some or all of the information you’re accessing doesn’t exist on your laptop or desktop computer. For small businesses, companies like Dropbox and Box are great starting points for doing this upgrade. Look to move any important computer files off the hard drive of your laptop and copy them into a secure service like Dropbox or Box, so you can access them on your computer without worrying about what happens when your cousin comes to visit the office and spills coffee on the company’s most important computer.

 

Once you get the hang of that, look for an automated backup solution that pairs with either of those services to do automatic backups of your most important computers. These are usually sold as a subscription service and are very much worth it. The point here is to eliminate any misery from the accidental destruction of any particular computer or laptop.

 

Switch to an Email Service Provider

 

When you go to send out mail to your entire customer database, if you’re not using a professional email service provider (ESP) like Mailchimp or Constant Contact or Aweber or the other big names in the space, it’s very unlikely that your mail is going through to the people you hope to receive it. The other huge benefit to using an email service provider (and using it better) is that you can learn to segment your big newsletter list.

 

Not every customer wants the news about every product. Not every customer uses your product the same way (or in the same amount). It’s important to segment your email list so that you can write to schools differently than you write to manufacturing plants, so that you can talk to house cleaners in one way and to building contractors another way. Be sure to check out various pricing plans for the different providers. Some are more cost effective depending on what size your customer base is at the moment.

 

Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Compliant

 

According to this study from Perficient, mobile traffic accounted for 58% of website visits in 2018 (it’s up in 2019). 42% of all time spent online is via mobile devices in 2018 (higher now). Your website has to run beautifully on mobile, plus it has to be fast. Google has a free tool that lets you test how fast your site runs on mobile devices. It’s worth seeing how well your site holds up.

 

Look to upgrade your site design to run better and faster by seeking to remove unnecessary code. Your overall design might need to be modified to accommodate mobile devices better. Everything needs to be checked for brevity. The cost of a full website redesign is a lot less than it ever has been, even though the need for a verymobile-friendly site is at its highest. (And if you don’t have a website, get one. It’s silly to let other people control your visibility in the modern workforce.)

 

Update Your Training Methods

 

Attracting and retaining well-trained talent is a priority at most companies right now. Companies all over are starting to report feeling the impact of a massive experience gap due to a significant uptick in retirement from one segment and a huge need to attract new talent on the other. But formal knowledge transfer still lags at most small (and plenty of the large) businesses, with most anonymous surveys rating company training efforts as too brief, too infrequent and relying on poor materials.

 

There are formal learning management systems (LMS) out there ranging in price from a few hundred dollars for a mostly DIY solution to a few hundred thousand for something intricate with a lot of bells and whistles. Consider your current training technology. If it’s a few three-ring binders and a bad DVD copy of a VHS video, plus a little hands-on time at the end, you’ll want to rethink this. Look for mobile-drive training solutions with video-friendly modules, as well as the ability to incorporate new training tools like AR (augmented reality) and the like.

 

Get Visual

 

You already have the basic technology for this. Take more pictures. Shoot more video. For reasons unknown, companies shy away from visual communications, even though most humans favor visual consumption as their means of acquiring information. (Not all. Some prefer test. Others learn from audio. Still others can’t use any of these methods and need hands on training only.)

 

 

Any small business that isn’t managing a growing media library of employee-created assets at this point might be behind. Sure, you can spring for the occasional expensive photo shoot and the like from the PR or corporate communications budget. But everyone has a cell phone that shoots photos and videos. Start encouraging the creation and sharing of this media (with a few simple guidelines for brand safety) and start collecting a company-wide media library so that everyone has access to this material for their own needs. This can vastly change the landscape of your business communications internally as well as externally.

 

 

Start Anywhere

 

You don’t have to do all five of these upgrades at once. You can start with the email work and then tackle the website refresh. Pick whichever you prefer, though I’d make the cloud storage and backup stuff happen earlier than later because it will facilitate some of the other projects. You might not have the immediate know-how within the company to do these tasks, so it’s always okay to find a local consultant. But ask around first. You’d be amazed what kinds of technical geniuses you might have on staff already.

 

About Chris Brogan

 

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Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. 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. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Aside from meeting someone in real life, video is the best way for small business owners to connect with prospects, clients and fans. There’s nothing like a real or virtual face-to-face encounter to develop that know, like and trust factor.

 

Whether you want to do a live video broadcast to educate, create your own show, be a guest expert for someone else, or both, there are plenty of opportunities for Facebook Live video in your small business marketing.

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Related: How to Identify Facebook Live Opportunities for Your Small Business

 

Facebook Live in Groups

 

Facebook has made Groups a priority, giving admins new features, such as welcome posts, member profiles, and badges to foster community among their members.

 

Related: How to Use Facebook Groups to Build a Loyal Community

 

Posting regular updates in your group, as well as starting threads that encourage conversation, is a must. Broadcasting live video inside your Facebook Group is a great way to share information, while bringing your group members together.

 

    • Joey Vitale is a lawyer with an Indie Law Facebook page that helps entrepreneurs through the trademark process. Vitale used regular Facebook Lives to build the law firm’s connected group to 7,000 members. Note: His firm recently re-niched their focus to Trademark Law for Online Entrepreneurs, and the new Facebook group is already rapidly growing using the same strategy.

 

    • The Market Like a Nerd Facebook group, aimed at female coaches and service providers, has a schedule of fun and informative posts, where the team “goes LIVE in the group to provide you NO-PITCH, VALUE ONLY content so you can turn up your marketing game in your business.”

 

No matter what your expertise, if you run a Facebook Group you can easily visit with your members regularly through Facebook live.

 

Facebook Live with a Sponsor

 

Branded content is an excellent way to earn money, while exposing your audience to complementary tools, products, or services. Many of my Facebook lives are monetized this way.

 

Here are examples of branded content I created for:

 

 

Target potential collaborators (brands, SaaS companies), and learn about their brands. Once you develop relationships with the companies you want to evangelize, invite them to be a Facebook Live sponsor. Remember, creators and publishers are responsible for tagging a business partner's Page when posting branded content.

 

Do an educational Facebook Live video broadcast and make a soft offer. Sponsored content works best when you choose the items you love to share with your audience. You want to seek out the most mutually beneficial situations.

 

As an influencer or brand ambassador, you may be eligible to sign up for Facebook’s Brand Collabs Manager feature. This will enable you to build a portfolio to showcase your content and potentially attract more deals.

 

Facebook Live Regular Show

 

As a small business owner, you ideally want to be the go-to-expert in your industry. To share your knowledge, tips, and trends in your industry, create a regular Facebook Live show. Broadcast on your Facebook business page and encourage your viewers to engage with your content by asking relevant questions.

 

    • Multiple New York Times best-selling author, wellness activist, and cancer thriver Kris Carr goes live on Facebook every week for Wellness Wednesday. Her lives are fairly informal, personal and highly engaging. Plus, she does a nice mix of uploaded videos in-between.

 

    • Live Streaming Pros David Foster and Luria Petrucci practice what they preach. They build professional studios for clients, and their regular broadcasts - every Tuesday and Friday at 1pm PT - are very educational. Their lives span multiple pages, and are also shared on YouTube, Twitch.tv and now Microsoft’s Mixer.

 

Keep in mind, many of your fans and followers may watch your Facebook Live videos after the fact, which is fine. However, if you broadcast consistently, discuss relevant topics, share actionable advice, and interact with your loyal following, it may turn your show into appointment TV.

 

Facebook Live Guest Expert

 

If you prefer not to produce your own show, seek out opportunities to be a guest expert on “talk shows” in your industry.

 

    • Ecamm Live is a professional Facebook Live streaming software (for Macs). The founders recently launched a live series called Meet the Pros, where they bring on regular users to talk about how they are using the software.
    • Agorapulse is a top social media management tool. They just launched a new weekly social media news show called Social Pulse Weekly, hosted by Jennifer Watson, formerly of The Weather Channel. 

 

Look for Facebook live shows either in your field or industry-adjacent. For instance, if you have a CPA or a website design firm, you can adapt your topic to a variety of niches. Once you find Facebook Live shows that may be a fit, watch them, figure out how you can add value to their audience, and send a pitch.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Since its rollout in August 2015, Facebook Live has continued to grow in popularity. Especially over the last year, as people have become more comfortable recording live video, there’s really nothing stopping small business owners from truly utilizing the platform.


Give it a try. There are plenty of opportunities for your business to shine on Facebook live. You just need to look for opportunities to go live … or create them yourself.

 

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

 

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.

Pinterest is a social network enabling individuals and businesses to post and find content through boards (groupings) of pins (content) with a common theme.

 

Like Instagram, Pinterest is visually based, so businesses can use it to give clients and prospects a window into their world. Businesses can share insights and experiences related to their company and industry, as well as to promote products and services.

 

However, there is also a planning component to Pinterest. Many of Pinterest’s more than 250 million monthly users go on the platform to discover new interests, skills, or information regarding a future event or activity. And,  Pinterest is also one of the largest search engines. This makes it the perfect platform for service-based businesses to highlight their value and expertise, so potential clients and customers can discover who they are and what they have to offer.

 

Creating Pins on Pinterest

 

Before you start selling on Pinterest, take the time to explore the platform. Visit similar or complementary businesses to see how they are using the Pinterest - types of content (photos, infographics, videos) - and put your own spin on it. Then, create boards relevant to your business with pins that educate, but also highlight your services and expertise. Remember, you want content that’s visually appealing, on-brand, and has relevant keywords (hashtags) in the description.

 

Here are some great examples of what small businesses are doing with Pinterest:

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  • TheYogaNomads offer education (online courses and consultations) and information for current and future yogaeachers. They have boards on “Business of Yoga,” “Yoga Poses,” “Blogging for Yoga Teachers” and more. Their pins link to articles on their website, such as “How to Theme a Yoga Class.” TheYogaNomads use Pinterest to drive traffic to their website, where they offer more free content, newsletter signup, and paid offerings.

 

 

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  • Chef Todd Mohr’s business is web-based cooking classes. His boards and pins, which range from recipes to cooking techniques, link to a free webinar sign up or a video replay. He then uses the webinars - an example of his teaching style and knowledge-base - to promote his online cooking education.

 

Pinterest is not just for shops, crafters, and restaurants. Marketers, writers, editors, virtual assistants, teachers, web developers, and other professionals are using Pinterest to reach new audiences and sell their services.

 

When you are ready to start selling on Pinterest, switch over to a business account.

 

How to Use Promoted Pins

 

To bring more attention to your pins, advertise. Ideally you want to select your pins that are already doing well (getting impressions) to capitalize on their engagement. Check analytics to find out which ones these are. Before promoting, edit the name of your pin, so it’s easy to find. Also, make sure the pin links to your website; you may want to update the url to one you can track through UTM codes or bitly.

 

There are two ways to create promoted pins.

 

Promote from the pin:

  • Pick a pin to promote
  • Choose your targeting
  • Set the budget and ad duration
  • Publish

 

Create a promoted pin in Ads Manager:

  • Select Create Ad
  • Choose a campaign goal: build awareness, drive traffic, grow sales
  • Enter ad group details
  • Choose your targeting
  • Set the budget and schedule the ad
  • Select a pin
  • Submit for review

 

If you want your ad approved, Pinterest suggests avoiding the following:

  • Images with promotions and prices
  • False sense of urgency
  • Excessive symbology or hashtags
  • No content on destination landing page
  • Images with calls to action
  • Images with confusing design elements
  • Images or descriptions with shocking content or profanity

 

You can also create and promote video ads.

 

Handling your Pinterest Traffic

 

Connect each pin to its relevant link destination. And use a multi-channel approach to give users a variety of content, as well as a better picture of what you have to offer. For instance:

 

  • Article links direct to the blog post
  • Video links go to YouTube or Facebook
  • Quotes, inspiration, or general information may go to a newsletter sign-up
  • Pins that promote a specific service direct to that landing page

 

You may also want to create pins that direct to an introductory deal on your services or a freebie (content, video, course) to get prospects invested in you and your business

 

Note: Make sure your website has the Facebook pixel for retargeting set up, so you can follow-up with the users who found you through your pins.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Just like Instagram, Pinterest is as much about showcasing your business as it is selling from it. While Pinterest is widely used to sell products with buyable pins, you can still use this wonderful, searchable platform to showcase and sell your services. You just need to get creative about it.

 

Read next:

Pinterest is a Search Engine for Small Businesses by Joel Comm

 

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

 

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.

Does your small business need to be concerned about cybercrime or, specifically, a ransomware attack?

 

Yes. 100% yes.

 

Ransomware is a growing menace, often targeting small business, and its effects can be devastating. Consider these sobering statistics:

 

  • Cybercrime cost the global economy almost a trilliondollars in 2018. Much of that came from losses due to ransomware
  • There has been a 300% increase in ransomware attacks in the last year alone
  • 60% of all cybercrime is now directed at small business

 

So yes, it is a problem of which you need to be aware. Here’s what you need to know:

 

What is ransomware? Ransomware is computer malware that infects systems by blocking access to the computer until you pay up. In other words, cybercrooks kidnap your computer until a ransom is paid.

 

Specifically, an unsuspecting computer user will be lured into either opening a corrupt email attachment or clicking on an infected website link, thereby installing malicious software. Once operational, the malware locks down the computer and a message like this appears on the screen:

 

 

What happens then? Once the encryption software has infected the host computer, a countdown clock starts ticking. Instructions state that the user has, say, 72 hours to pay a ransom or all of the encrypted files on the computer will be deleted.

 

In most cases, the amount of the ransom is not astronomical – something like $500 - $1,000 is typical. The idea is that the owner of the locked-down computer will often decide the easiest course of action is in fact to simply pay the ransom.

 

Cyber Crime: You’ve been hacked – do you know who to call?

 

What are your options? Once your computers have been infected with ransomware, you essentially have three options:

 

1. Pay the ransom: As indicated, this is often the path of least resistance. The way it hopefully works is that the computer user pays the ransom and the cybercriminals then send a “key” to unlock the computer/system.

 

In all likelihood the word “hopefully” just jumped out at you, and for good reason. These are bad guys after all. They may send the decryption key, or they may not.

 

2. Attempt to remove the malware: The idea here is to hire a cybersecurity expert to get rid of the infected software. (Typically, this is not something you can do without expert help.)

 

3. Do nothing and recover your files: If you have an online backup of your data as you should, then the final option would be to wait, have the creeps delete your hard drive, and then start over with your backup files.

 

No, not a pleasant thought.

 

How can you protect your business from ransomware?

 

There are several precautionary steps you can take to keep yourself and your small business safe:

 

First, be sure to install an Internet security software program on your computer system. The best these days are cloud-based systems that monitor your computer in real time.

 

Second, do a deeper dive into how ransomware is spread and teach your staff about safe computing processes and procedures.

 

Finally, as indicated, you must have an online backup system like Carbonite or McAfee so that your data is always safe.

 

Of course, neither losing your data nor paying a ransom is an attractive option and that is why taking ransomware seriously and instituting precautionary measures is your best course of action.

 

Do that.

 

Right now!

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

LinkedIn used to be just for finding jobs and good job recruits but in the past few years it’s become a lot more. For any business, small and large – and especially for B2B firms, it’s now the most important place to share content and build connections.

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Here are five ways to do it:

 

1.    Make it Personal—for Everyone

 

LinkedIn lets you create two kinds of pages: personal and company pages. As a business owner, you should have both but expect to get more engagement on a personal page.

That means all a company’s executives should be building their personal brands on the site and talking to their networks. But don’t stop there. Every member of your staff also has a channel of their own and access to an audience that can benefit your company.

 

“I highly recommend launching an Employee Advocacy program and get all your employees—not just your Sales and Marketing team—(but that’s a good place to start) sharing your Company’s content on LinkedIn,” says Viveka von Rosen, founder of Linked into Business, a LinkedIn training company. “Gently remind people to… find and share your company content with their networks.”

 

2.    Use the Company Page as a Content Hub

 

While employees’ personal pages are where the connections are formed, the company page can act as a hub for the content employees will share. The firm’s content creator will publish content on the company’s LinkedIn page, and the firm’s employees then distribute it, broadcasting it to their friends. LinkedIn has its own tool at LinkedIn Elevate to make this strategy easier but you can also use third-party providers like EveryoneSocial.

 

The strategy should be: Upload corporate content to the company LinkedIn page and then ask your employees to help distribute the content across the platform.

 

3.    Use Hashtags, Emojis and Special Characters

 

LinkedIn is unusual in that it’s a professional platform that depends on personal relationships. So, while the content should always be professional and business-like, its style of delivery should be all you.

 

If you use emojis in your messages, throw some smileys into your LinkedIn posts (even if you have to create them in a different application and copy them over.) They win attention. Mention, with the @symbol, the name of any influencers, prospects or colleagues whose attention you want to win. And use hashtags to both make your posts easy to find and to track your own content. Von Rosen recommends three: two popular hashtags, and one unique hashtag of your own.

 

4.    Publish LinkedIn’s Favorite Kind of Content

 

You can publish a range of content on LinkedIn, and the company likes to prioritize different types at different times. In 2014, it tended to give a push to LinkedIn Publisher articles. Last year, native video was all the rage.

 

This year LinkedIn appears to be particularly keen up uploaded Powerpoints and PDF documents. “LinkedIn likes its toys,” says von Rosen.

 

Know what LinkedIn likes playing with and work those forms of content into your strategy but be cautious. It’s more important that you deliver content that suits you and that your network likes than try to produce content LinkedIn will like. In the end LinkedIn will like your results best of all.

 

Create or share content that builds awareness for new followers; that appeals to a buyer’s needs for followers on the edge of a purchase; and that’s useful for current and—possibly repeat—customers.

 

5.    Use Video and Live Video

 

Native video might be 2018 but it will never go completely out of fashion. A short video can quickly deliver a message that wins both engagement and resonance. Nor do you need a fancy studio to shoot video at your office. Mark Zuckerberg’s first live video on Facebook was a shaky bit of shooting from inside the Facebook offices. The content matters much more than the quality of the camera work.

 

Use video to interview partners, colleagues, or give product demos. And use live video to explain issues and to talk with your audience. (They can use the comments to ask questions that you can answer in real time.) It’s an easy—and fun—way to build a deep connection with people interested in your company.

 

Have you tried LinkedIn to grow your business opportunities? Please share your experiences – good and bad – in the comments below.

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Next to real-life communication, video on social media is the best way to connect with prospects, clients and customers. Yet social channels need to make video adjustments if they hope to compete with YouTube.

 

Instagram launched Instagram Television in June 2018 with much fanfare. However, the IGTV app, built for longer videos, has yet to become the breakout hit Instagram intended. That may be changing.

 

In response to feedback from viewers and content creators, Instagram has made several critical changes to help increase IGTV’s usability and user-base, so it rivals other long-form video platforms. The most recent new feature is support for landscape video as well as vertical. Because so many other platforms, like YouTube, primarily use landscape video this could help encourage users to cross-post video content to IGTV vs. having to create a new piece of content for the platform.

 

If you have an Instagram account, you have an IGTV account, but will need to download the separate mobile app to use IGTV. Or, you can view and upload videos on desktop Instagram.com.

 

One of the primary benefits to IGTV videos is length. Where Instagram videos are capped at one minute, IGTV videos can run between 15 seconds and 10 minutes. Larger and verified accounts can upload videos up to 60 minutes in length from a computer. (Instagram doesn’t stipulate what ‘larger’ actually means.)

 

Another fairly new IGTV feature is ‘Previews’ in the main Instagram feed. So, whenever you upload a video to IGTV, you can also choose to showcase the beginning clip on your Instagram account. The preview will be up to one minute, depending on the length of your video. 

 

This longer run-time gives companies more flexibility to delve deeper with their video content, and create branded channels, along with valuable content (i.e. shows) that can inform, entertain and ultimately endear customers to their business.

 

So, what works best on IGTV? Here are three companies creating great IGTV content in very different ways.

 

REI: Produced Video Reminiscent of a TV Channel

 

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REI (aka Recreational Equipment, Inc.) is doing an excellent job of producing just-outside-their-box videos. They upload new content two to three times a week and have four different types of videos (or “shows”).

 

    • Camping Recipes:Quick food videos you can make in the great outdoors.
    • Why on Earth?:REI asks and answers questions about nature.
    • Breath of Fresh Air:The sounds and views of nature (the ocean, the forest) so viewers can “sit back and relax” for a few minutes.
    • Behind the Scenes:In their newest series, the team at REI Co-op’s onsite product testing facility (aka 'Mag Lab') answers common product questions. The first one is on Sleeping Bag Thermal Ratings.

 

Even though they have the luxury of time, REI keeps most of their videos around 1 minute. The result is quick, engaging, and informative on-brand videos targeting directly toward their audience.

 

Headspace: Animation 

 

Headspace, the meditation app, has a mixture of types of animated videos on their IGTV channel. The company’s branding has illustrations throughout, so it makes sense they create videos with that same imagery.

 

Some of Headspace’s IGTV videos are informative (How to Use the App, Training the Mind), while others contain an actual meditation (sounds or guided meditation).

 

Through simple videos on their IGTV channel, Headspace shows prospects and fans who they are and what they - and their app - has to offer.

 

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Solopreneur Sidekick: Solo Videos that Educate

 

Louise, the Solopreneur Sidekick, has an IGTV channel full of how-tos and tips for website success. Her channel works well for a few reasons.

 

    • Louise’s “talking head” videos have a literal frame around them, which has her branding and YouTube link (which leads to more videos).
    • Her on-screen persona is friendly and on-brand; she’s personable and knowledgeable, and it shows. 
    • In addition to specific calls to action in the description, Louise adds her same about me one-liner and free trial incentive link.

 

Solopreneur Sidekick’s short videos tell the viewer exactly what they are going to learn, and then follows through on that promise. A definite recipe for business - and video - success.

 

Each of these examples showcase ways small businesses could integrate IGTV in their marketing mix. Whether you go the full production, education, or animation route, there are different tools you can use to create videos.

 

The field is wide open on IGTV, too. Any small businesses moving quickly with video can become IGTV trailblazers.

 

          Related Links

 

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

 

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.

With all the recent privacy concerns surrounding Facebook , it’s no wonder Mark Zuckerberg is being so public about prioritizing privacy.

 

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“I understand that many people don't think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform,” Zuckerberg wrote in an open letter on Facebook last March, “because frankly we don't currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services, and we've historically focused on tools for more open sharing.

 

“But we've repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories,” he added.

 

Since its inception, Facebook has focused on bringing people - and communities and businesses - together in a very public way. That “Town Hall” connection is invaluable for people’s personal and professional lives. However, people also value their privacy, which is what Facebook is addressing in full force.

 

Of late, private messaging, Stories and Facebook groups have garnered the most attention. They are, after all, the fastest growing areas of online communication. People prefer to converse one-on-one and in small groups in order to keep their communications and interactions secure.

 

How Small Business Owners Can Capitalize on Pivot to Privacy

 

With Messenger, the main area you can take full advantage of is to create a chatbot. Automating your FAQs and customer service queries can save an inordinate amount of time and money. People want quick replies. In fact, a study by Ogilvy found that 40 percent of people don’t care if customer service comes from a human or technology, as long as it’s the right answer!

 

Check out ManyChat or MobileMonkey for two of the most popular and affordable Messenger chatbot solutions.

 

The Future of Messenger

 

During the first day of this year’s Facebook’s F8 conference, Asha Sharma, Head of Facebook’s Messenger, announced several new products and features for businesses, individuals and developers expected to roll-out later this year.

 

    • App Changes. Facebook is rebuilding the architecture of Messenger to be faster and lighter.
    • Desktop App. Messenger will soon be upgraded for desktop use with improved functionality for group video calls, project collaboration, and multi-tasking while chatting in Messenger.
    • Group Viewing. Users will be able to invite/share Facebook videos directly from the app  and then watch together. While the entertainment value is obvious, this can also be used in business: watch videos together for training purposes, do customer service demos, and so on, all while being able to simultaneously chat.
    • Business Tools. Facebook is also adding terrific new features designed to support small businesses, starting with lead generation templates and booking appointments through bots.

 

Generate Leads in Messenger with Automated Chat Templates

 

The ability to generate leads using lead-generation templates (Q&A chatbot scripts to aid the customer journey inside Messenger) is a gamechanger!  When you run a Facebook or Instagram ad with a call-to-action button that clicks through to Messenger, you can connect this to your chatbot and collect information from customers and generate leads.

 

You can then continue the conversation directly in Messenger. Similar to a lead generation form, an automated chat is a more conversational approach to collecting customer information.

 

Book Appointments Using Bots in Messenger

 

Bots that make appointments can be reached directly in Messenger or in conversations that begin with a Facebook News Feed ad, Messenger home page ad, or via web chat plugin on an organization’s website.

 

The ability to book appointments directly in Messenger is great news for businesses, such as car dealerships, stylists or cleaning services. Regardless of your industry, if you set up appointments with customers, make it really easy with Facebook Messenger integration.

 

 

     Related Links:

 

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

 

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.

For the last few years, video has been at the forefront of social media marketing for small business owners.

 

This year in particular has seen quite a rising trend of vertical video.

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Why Vertical Video?

 

People naturally hold their phones in “portrait mode” for everyday use. Statista shows us that adults in the U.S. spend an average of 5 hours and 57 minutes per day on video, out of which 10 daily viewing minutes were generated via smartphone. Vertical video is designed for mobile consumption.

 

And, a recent studyof over 9 million Facebook pages by Socialinsider revealed some incredible statistics regarding the state of video in 2019 and where small business owners need to be focusing their attention. Vertical videos outperform landscape video in engagement for all page sizes.

 

As of January 2019, 96 percent of active Facebook user accounts access Facebook via a mobile device [Source: Statista]. And, 57 percent of video plays worldwide come from mobile devices [Source: Breadnbeyond].

 

Millennials are much more likely to be focused on a video they watch on their mobile devices than they are on video watched on television.

 

Vertical Video Success Tips

 

Know your aspect ratios

 

When you create vertical video, there are three distinct aspect ratios you should be aware of, depending on the placement of your video content.

 

        1. 9:16 full portrait/vertical - used for Stories on both Facebook and Instagram, as well as Facebook Feed
        2. 4:5 vertical - ideal for both Facebook and Instagram Feeds
        3. 2:3 vertical - for Facebook only

 

See Facebook’s helpful Best Practices for Aspect Ratios.

 

Creating vertical videos in these three aspect ratios might seem overwhelming at first. However, there are terrific tools you can use to easily create content for these different aspect ratios at the click of a button.

 

My favorite video creation tool for all aspect ratios is Wave.video. Their tool is popular and affordable. You can upload your own video clips and/or access Wave.video’s extensive library of stock assets. Then create your video with text overlay, branded elements, and then automatically resize it for each platform and purpose. This can help save you time in the editing process and take the technical challenge out of creating a video that can be formatted in different ways.

 

Keep your viewers engaged

 

The first 3 seconds of your video are critical in engaging a viewer's attention. This means you need to be quick, clear and concise in getting to the core message you want to get across. Skip the intro with a spinning logo or other effects that take time to come on screen. Just dive right into your content with a quick summary at the beginning, and always include a clear call to action at the end. Don’t speak longer than you need to. The goal is to captivate your viewer’s attention from start to finish.

 

Use animated graphics and transitions to direct the eyes and attention of the viewer.

 

Use vertical video to showcase your products

 

Product videos help customers make purchasing decisions.Vertical video allows you to get up close to your subject. It creates a more intimate setting that invites your viewer in. This can be particularly useful when showcasing products or giving viewers an insight into how your business exists to serve them best. Vertical video is fully immersive, meaning the video covers the entire phone screen, and lets your viewer feel like they are with you.

 

When shooting products, practice the rule of thirds. This is a photography term that states you should not place the main subject in the center of the frame. Instead, use vertical and horizontal lines to place the subject either on the lines or where the lines meet up. If you are recording your video on a mobile device, there is a setting to show these grid lines.

 

Also, be sure your video quality is stable. Shaky movements and even fast transitions from side to side can distract the viewer to create a negative viewing experience.

 

Add captions to your videos

 

The majority of video on Facebook is watched without sound. If you don’t have captions or text overlay on your video, there is a high risk your viewer will simply keep scrolling because it’s not convenient for them to watch at that moment. Be sure to enable the captions feature when you upload videos to Facebook. And/or use a video tool such as Wave.video to  easily add text overlay.

 

For Facebook and Instagram Stories videos, you can easily overlay text on your videos using the app’s features. You don’t need to caption word for word but by summarizing your main point in a sentence or two, you give your viewers the opportunity to consume your content with the sound off.

 

Use Facebook and Instagram Stories

 

In Mark Zuckerburg’s own words, Stories are the future! In a recent article, I discussed how you can bring your small business to life with Facebook and Instagram Stories.

 

Stories really popularized vertical video. The Stories format is specifically designed for recording or uploading on mobile. Stories are a fantastic way to create vertical video on the go with very little time or skill set required.

 

Stories are interactive. Your viewers can easily hit reply and keep the conversation going. Simply by giving your audience a glimpse into your everyday business life, you provide them with the opportunity to build a real relationship with you and your company.

 

Also, when you go live on Facebook or Instagram using your mobile device, make sure your phone is upright in portrait mode. You’ll be streaming in vertical format and will see comments in the lower third. It’s a highly engaging feature for both platforms; live videos get six times more engagement than recorded videos.

 

Invest in Story Ads

 

You can easily place vertical video ads on Facebook and Instagram using Facebook Ads Manager. If you leave the Placements setting as ‘automatic,’ so long as you meet the technical requirements, your ad will appear in Stories. This goes for videos of all formats. However, I recommend creating 9:16 immersive videos in the same native format for Stories.

 

Tip for Landscape Videos

 

For your landscape videos, you can easily repurpose these to create vertical video content. Simply place the horizontal video into the frame and use the space around the video to display your header, your video captions/text overlay, and call to action. In fact, this is a really popular format on Facebook. You might take a peek at Jay Shetty's style of video - he tends to use the 4:5 format a lot with text above and often below as well. Here’s a helpful guide with infographic from Facebook.

 

Disclaimer: Mari Smith is the chief brand ambassador for Wave.video.Read next:

 

Read next:

How to Use Compelling Video on Social Media for Your Small Business 

 

 

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

 

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.

Over the last few years, the use of messenger apps has skyrocketed. WhatsApp usage alone is now over 85.21 billion hours with 1.6 billion users worldwide while Facebook Messenger is right behind with 1.3 billion users.

 

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Texting and messaging through apps has become a top way to communicate. The ability to connect and chat with businesses in a convenient, accessible and trackable way is a huge benefit for customers.

 

For businesses, with engagement rates reaching up to 80 percent, it comes as no surprise that companies are adopting messaging as a key element in their marketing and customer care strategies.

 

Not only do messaging apps offer a more efficient, cost-effective way to handle customer care, they offer a means to excel at it.

 

In this article, I’ll share tips and best practices you can use to improve your social customer care in the evolving world of messaging apps.

 

The Most Popular Messaging Apps

 

The most popular messaging app in North America is Facebook Messenger. At Facebook’s recent F8 Developer Conference, the company focused extensively on Messenger as a priority. This means small business owners do need to pay closer attention to the improvements Facebook offers in Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct.

 

In addition to Facebook Messenger, Apple’s iMessage is vastly popular in the U.S. Plus, check out Apple’s Business Chat, which is growing in popularity among brands.

 

Outside of the U.S., WhatsApp is the runaway leader. If you have international customers, you’d do well to bring WhatsApp into your marketing mix and social customer care tools.

 

For third party Facebook Messenger chatbots, definitely take a look at MobileMonkey and ManyChat. Both companies offer extensive support, training and communities into which you can tap for maximum effectiveness right out the gate.

 

Related:

Facebook Messenger Chatbots Give Small Business Owners an Edge

 

Why Your Small Business Should Use Messaging Apps

 

Messaging apps in demand. A study by Messenger People found 117 million customer queries were received on WhatsApp by companies in the last 12 months. Messaging apps allow companies to meet customers where they are at, when they need them most. If this is what the market demands, the greatest step towards enhancing customer care is provide that solution.

 

Messaging apps increase engagement. When it comes to business, attention is the game. There is a strong case to be made for the ability to follow up and keep in touch with customers once they have contacted you. Certainly, millennials prefer to deal with companies by text; 83 percent of millennials open text messages within 90 seconds. Being able to communicate directly with customers with such high engagement rates is a huge opportunity for companies.

 

Messaging apps are convenient. Messaging apps evolved from social networks. They provided a way to combine all the key features from different apps and implement them into one platform for the user’s convenience. Rather than having to download a separate app or go through the traditional telephone/email process to contact a company, messaging allows users to quickly reach out to a company and start a conversation while continuing on with their day.

 

Messaging apps are efficient. Messaging apps create a centralized conversation with customers making it easy for different team members to track the conversation, access all the relevant information, and provide streamlined solutions in one place. No more passing the phone to different teams and waiting on hold for hours. This in itself improves customer care through efficient processes.

 

Messaging apps are low cost. For the most part, messenger apps are free to use. All they require is a data or WIFI connection. This saves significant resources, once only allocated to call centers and hiring a number of customer care representatives. While companies definitely still require customer care representatives, the very nature of the chat is through written word enabling employees to manage multiple conversations at one time.

 

Chat conversations are more cost and time efficient than the traditional phone conversations that were restricted to one customer at a time and often involved wait time. For customers, timely responses are a huge plus when it comes to their customer experience.

 

Messaging apps can be partially automated. Messenger chatbots can be used to provide instant solutions to standard customer service questions. Messenger chatbots are not designed to replace human interaction. They are designed to support it.

 

Most likely, there are a few key actions customers are looking to take when they message you. A messenger chatbot can provide instant first-level support by answering common questions regarding appointments, open hours, directions, returns, payments, and so on. This means customers no longer have to wait for a human to get back to them. If they still require human support, it should be made available promptly but chatbots offer an instant solution to increasing customer satisfaction.

 

As AI continues to advance, Messenger chatbots are becoming more sophisticated. This helps to find a quick solution while also creating a personalized experience for the customer.

 

Messaging App Best Practices

 

To ensure a streamlined customer experience, you’ll want to properly set up your messaging processes. To ensure you implement messenger bots successfully, here are some best practices to follow.

 

1. Be human.

 

People don’t like to talk to robots. They also don’t appreciate pre-written, scripted responses. If a customer is reaching out to you, it’s because they need help. The need people who can understand their problems on an emotional level and relate to how they are feeling in this moment.

 

If you do decide to implement a messenger chatbot, proceed with caution. Start very simply and focus on getting the process right first. Remember that chatbots are not designed to replace human support; they exist to provide quick solutions. Always let the customer know they are speaking to a chatbot and if they require human support, it is available.

 

2. Be transparent.

 

When it comes to customer service, it’s important to be completely honest and transparent. It is no different when it comes to messaging apps. People understand if you don’t know how to help them or don’t have a quick solution available if you are transparent about it.

 

Rather than leaving a customer waiting hours for a response, politely let them know that you aren’t sure of the solution but you will find out and get back to them by a set time. This way, they understand the situation, can get on with their day and they know when to expect a solution.

 

3. Streamline your processes.

 

It’s important to align your service, sales and marketing teams when it comes to messaging apps. You need to be able to understand where your customers are in their journey and provide the right solution to the right problem.

 

Once they reach the right support, teams need to be able to access all the relevant information to provide a solution. This means companies need to understand the customer journey and have responses instantly available for the most frequently asked questions.

 

4. Respond quickly.

 

Being able to quickly identify customer queries and provide a timely solution is paramount when it comes to reputation management. Of the 117 million customer queries received via WhatsApp, only 62 percentwere answered within 24 hours. If you are going to offer support through messaging apps, it’s important the right resources are allocated to the task at hand. People need quick and accurate responses. Otherwise, you could quickly turn a happy customer into an angry one.

 

People do business with people they know, like and trust. Being able to communicate directly with customers one-on-one in a scalable way is the first step towards creating a personalized experience for your customers. This allows them to feel heard, valued and taken care of.

 

Messaging apps are changing the game when it comes to customer care.  Now is the right time to embrace that!

 

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

 

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.

Last January, I was reading Twitter when I came across a hysterically funny thread commenting on actors walking the red carpet for the Golden Globe Awards. The author—Quinn Cummings, was a former child actor (nominated for an Academy Award for her role in The Goodbye Girl).

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Cummings “retired” from acting, wrote several books and “started making jokes” on Twitter, aiming “fora Dorothy Parker/Carrie Fisher tone.” While she “enjoyed making people laugh” Cummings, “missed writing longer stories” which lead her to create a series of threaded tweets, and “put it up with no sense of what might happen.”

 

What happened was she more than doubled her Twitter following, gained more than 430 monthly financial supporters on her Patreon account, and is one of a select group of people who’ve figured out how to make money from Twitter.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: Your Twitter feed is funny, sassy, sarcastic, political and confessional. Hard to pull that off. Is that a reflection of your personality?

 

Quinn Cummings: In real life, I am fairly quiet, very introverted; I think my most noticeable quality is that I’m punctual. When I’m online I am entirely different. I think of my online identity as Court Jester, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Court Jester says the things I say to myself in private, only written out and carefully designed to make people who abuse their power very angry. It’s an odd thing to say about your own writing, but I admire Court Jester. She’s ballsier than I am. Of course, she would correct me and say she has twice the ovaries.

 

Lesonsky: How did you decide to sell access to your work on Twitter?

 

Cummings: For several years, I posted a blog three times a week detailing my life and my adventures—which were mostly misadventures. It was popular. It got me a book deal. But after about seven years, I realized I was kind of burned out on the blog format and started using Twitter more enthusiastically, building followers based on political humor. I was doing well but realized I missed the longer format. Also, I wanted to write a story that just made people laugh. In November, I created that threaded Tweet about the worst decision I ever made in an office. That thread has been retweeted over 17,000 times.

 

After squeezing my work into tweet-sized bites, I realized there might be a place for longer stories, so I started stitching together a fully fleshed out story every weekday. My only rule: Keep it funny, because people are stressed enough.

 

People seemed to really enjoy it. In one month, my follower count doubled, and I loved having the chance to tell stories again. The only problem was, creating these things wasn’t a quick job. It was cutting into my income-producing work. After two months’ creating five small stories a week, I created a Patreon account, told my readers what I was trying to do, and crossed my fingers.

 

After one day, I was earning enough to cover my health insurance. As a working writer, that felt great.

 

Lesonsky: How does it work?

 

Cummings: When I first considered doing this, I quizzed my Twitter followers about what they would pay for these stories [and] $5 a month was the number I heard most often. The $1 level is for those people who want to kind of leave me a tip. They don’t get the extra story, but it’s a way of supporting me and I am grateful for those supporters as well. When I started, I assumed that would be the more popular level because, hey, 2019. [But], I have more than twice as many $5 supporters as $1 supporters, and I have seen quite a few $1 supporters move up their patronage after the first couple of months.

 

Lesonsky: Are you monetizing your Twitter account or are you using Twitter as a promotional tool for your Patreon account?

 

Cummings: I would say I’m monetizing Twitter. The way to imagine it is that Twitter is the city in which I live. Recently, I have put out a shingle and started a business in the city. People who know me from that neighborhood are supporting me. There are ways to use Patreon to find new supporters and I’m learning the skills, but Patreon is not my original language, Twitter is. I will probably always speak Patreon with an accent

 

Lesonsky: You’re already making money. What’s the future look like?

 

Cummings: I…have no idea. Until January, I would have sworn there was no way to monetize what I was already doing for free. I ran the experiment and am pleased to say I was wrong. Now, what other limiting beliefs need to be tested?

 

When you’re on social media the way I am—which is to say, all the time—you notice things. I’ve noticed human beings need stories. We crave them. Joan Didion said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

 

In fact, stories may be why we’re alive; some scientists theorized humans developed language to communicate where the food was. All I know is we live in a stressful and lonely digital world, but if the right person comes up and says, “Let me tell you a story,” humans come racing. We love stories, we long for authenticity, we yearn to feel whole, sane, not angry, connected, if only for a few minutes. I want to tell stories and I’ll continue to look for new ways to do it.

 

Check out the stories of other successful entrepreneurs here.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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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. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Since launching in 2016, Instagram Stories have become a rapidly growing feature now used by over 500 million people around the world on a daily basis. Since then, Facebook has continued to invest in the growth of Stories through the addition of the feature into the Facebook app in March 2017.

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Mark Zuckerberg is so confident that “The future is stories” that during Facebook’s third-quarter earnings call 2018 that he mentioned stories a total of 71 times!

 

In this article, I’m going to share with you how your small business can use Facebook and Instagram Stories to bring your brand to life.

 

What are Stories?

 

As I discussed in a previous article, Facebook-owned Instagram originally launched the Stories feature in August 2016 as a direct copy of an already popular Snapchat platform. In 2017, the company went on to launch Stories on Facebook as well.

 

The feature allows users to post photos and videos, typically in real time, that vanish after 24 hours. Add media to your story, a colored circle will appear around your profile picture letting users know you’ve shared something new.

 

Stories can be up to 15 seconds. You can add up to 100 stories in a 24-hour period making it highly flexible and a great on-the-go vlogging (video blogging) platform for users and businesses alike.

 

Fortunately, you only need to add about three Stories at a time in any 24-hour period to stay relevant and at the top of your followers’ feeds. I wouldn’t recommend going too crazy with volume unless you have the time and the assets to go for it. Excessive volume tends to have diminished returns, though, so be strategic about the content you post.

 

Why Stories have become so valuable

 

If you’re looking to grow your business through Instagram and/or Facebook, the Stories feature holds incredible value. Here are just a few reasons why.

 

Stories are Interactive.

 

Stories aren’t just a one-way form of communication. Viewers can reply to your Story and initiate a privateconversation with you. This is golden! It’s as good as having your prospect or customer’s cell phone number. You can build personal relationships with your audience and earn trust through the transparent, organic nature Stories provide.

 

Stories are real-time.

 

This makes it really easy to create video content quickly without any technical or editing skills required.

 

Stories can provide Additional Calls to Action

 

If you have over 10,000 followers, you’ll have the feature to include ‘swipe up’ links in your Stories. This is great for adding a call to action that leads your audience outside Instagram. For example, a blog post, product offering, or lead magnet.

 

Even if you don’t have access to the ‘swipe up’ feature, you can use Stories to remind and encourage viewers to click the link in your bio where you can place a strategic call to action.

 

Or, all Instagram users have the ability to link Stories to your IGTV videos. IGTV is a separate app for longer vertical video (15 seconds up to one hour), but the app is very integrated with the main Instagram app.

 

Plus, unlike the main Instagram app, any URLs you add to your IGTV videos in the description or comments are hyperlinked. So, by adding a swipe up to your IGTV video where you then direct people to an external link, you can get traffic from your Stories. I’ve seen Buffer do this strategy well, even though they have the swipe up to outside links feature, they also experiment with swipe up to IGTV videos.

 

Stories improve your reach dramatically.

 

Not everyone sees your feed posts. Stories help combat the diminishing reach on Instagram. Stories are still shown to followers in chronological order. This means the more often you post, your profile Story will place higher ranked at the top of your followers’ feeds.

 

 

How to Get Started with Facebook and Instagram Stories

 

When it comes to getting started with Stories, it’s as easy as choosing your topic, creating the content either in the Instagram app or using a third-party tool then publishing it to your Story.

 

1.  Choose Your Topic: Stories invite your community into your daily life. You can use them to document your day and/or to incorporate some of these strategic ideas for building engagement:

 

        • Offer a behind the scenes look into your brand, people, products and processes.
        • Share tips and tutorials that leverage your knowledge and expertise.
        • Host a Q&A using the questions feature.
        • Conduct market research and get to know your community using the polls feature.
        • Offer platform exclusive offers and discounts encouraging loyalty.
        • Go live and start a conversation with your community. Try also inviting users onto the screen with you to create more intimacy.

 

2. Create Your Story Content: All of these features are included natively within Facebook and Instagram stories making content creation a breeze.

Don’t worry if you’re camera shy, there are still a number of ways you can tell stories and share insights with your audience as you build confidence using the platform.

You can even use low-cost tools such as Canva to create Stories as images/graphics, or Wave.video to create short vertical videos that captivate your audience and invite them to start a conversation with you.

 

3. Publish your Story: To publish an Instagram or Facebook story, you click on the camera shown at the top left of your home screen then use the navigation at the bottom to choose your format.

 

Best Practices for Facebook and Instagram Stories

 

There are no set rules when it comes to Stories but there are some best practices to follow.

 

1. Post Consistently: The only way to engage your audience is to be present. That means showing up on a daily basis and taking the time to really invest in the Stories feature as a key strategy for growth. When you invest in your audience, you earn their attention and they will start to invest in you.

 

2. Plan Your Content in Advance: By planning your content ahead of time, you are far more likely to post consistently. Your stories will also tend to be more intentional and aligned with your goals for the platform.

 

You can also schedule your Instagram Stories in advance using a third-party app. Three great tools that allow you to plan, upload and schedule your feed posts and your Stories include AgoraPulse, Planoly, and Plann.

 

3. Make Use of Interactive Features: From polls to questions, GIFs, countdown timers, locations and @ mentions, there is a wide variety of interactive features built into both Facebook and Instagram Stories. Take advantage of them liberally! These features are all designed to spark engagement in a quick, fun and entertaining way. This is an easy way to get to know your audience and start building relationships with them.

 

And, keep in mind that people absolutely love to touch their phones. (Some studies say as much as 2,600 times a day or even more!) The more you can give your audience an excuse to tap a sticker, or slide the poll, or send you a heart, the more you’ll increase your engagement and loyalty.

 

4. Track and Measure Your Success: Anytime you invest your time and energy into marketing, it’s imperative you track the return on that investment. It’s no different with Stories. To access your Story metrics, just swipe up on any Story.

 

Be sure to measure your traction in terms of growth and engagement not only on a macro level but on a micro level too. You want to know which content is engaging your audience and which content you might want to limit. By honing in on the analytics, you can continuously improve your Story content and the loyalty among your community.

 

You can always go back and review the views on a particular Story within your ‘Archives’. These can be accessed by visiting your profile and clicking the clock icon on the top left.

 

Now it’s your turn to bring your small business to life with Facebook and Instagram Stories. This is an opportunity to connect with your audience and invite them into your business. You no longer have to tell your community why they should buy from you because they get to experience the benefits first hand.

 

 

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

 

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.

Nearly half of “small businesses had at least one cyber-attack in the past year,” according to the 2018 Hiscox Small Business Cyber Risk Report. Now more than ever, keeping your customer’s data safe is critical to your business success.

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This past year, I saw just how easy it can be for your small business to have a data breach.

 

Let me give you a little background. In October, I was asked by executives from the Microsoft Store to participate in a video demonstration in Los Angeles to show how vulnerable most small businesses are to cyberattacks. We asked Sean Etesham and Richard Idigo, the founders of Quants Bakery (and Microsoft Store customers) to participate, and they agreed.

 

 

Quants Bakery, a subscription-based online vegan bakery, has large collections of customers’ personal data - just like any web-based subscription service - but they were confident in their cybersecurity. “We hired a third-party vendor to handle security and we thoroughly vetted them first,” Idigo said. “On top of that, we use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in order to hide our IP addresses and encrypt our internet connections. So yes, we really believe in security.”

 

On a sunny October day, I sat down with Etesham and Idigo to perform a cybersecurity demo they won't soon forget. Microsoft Store security expert Eric Leonard had “spoofed” their website, duplicating the site exactly with the exception of one letter in the URL that was unnoticeable. Quantsbakery.com became QuantBakery.com, and their data was breached. When Etesham logged in to the spoofed site, it gave the “hacker” access to whatever was needed to potentially compromise the business.

 

(You can watch the short video of what happened that day, here.)

 

This is a hugely important lesson for small businesses. But what does this experience tell you? Well for one, that hackers have the ability to do whatever it takes to get your customers’ data. It also shows the security you have now may need some reinforcements.

 

So, what can you do, as a small business owner, to keep customer data safe and secure?

 

Install a cybersecurity software suite

 

Cyber threats are always evolving, which makes security software especially appealing. These software suites are updated to fight the latest cybersecurity threats and ensure the safety of your business so you don’t have to. PC Mag lists its top choices of 2019 for cybersecurity software suites as Symantec, McAfee and Bitdefender. The cost ranges from anywhere to $50-$150.

 

Train your staff on cybersecurity protocol

 

Avoid what happened to Etesham and Idigo by training your staff. What signs should they look for? They need to know what a phishing scam is, how it works, and what your cybersecurity rules are. Tailor them specifically to your business: what are the data that needs protecting, and how can we ensure its protection?

 

Enable two-factor authentication

 

Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of protection intended to ensure the people accessing your data were given permission to have that access. This means that after you log in to a site, you receive either an email or a text with a designated code (i.e., the second authentication.) When you receive the code, you can gain access to the information. Cybercriminals cannot duplicate this method of authentication, which makes it a favorite for keeping cyberattacks at bay.

 

Don’t forget to have strong passwords

 

You know this, but do you do it? Changing your password may be frustrating, but it truly is one of the best things you can do to protect your business. Strong passwords mean that a hacker is less likely to retrieve your data. In many cases, a password generator may be your best bet in maintaining your cybersecurity, as it uses combinations that would be tricky for a cybercriminal to guess.

 

 

Make sure you have a security expert on hand

 

If you can’t afford an IT staffer, you can use a third-party vendor to help maintain good cybersecurity.

 

Unfortunately, in this day and age, you can’t afford to not to be protected. Luckily, with all the tips we’ve listed here, you are well on your way to maintaining your customer’s data safely.

 

Get more information and tips in our Fraud and Privacy Resource Center.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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